Headed for the brawl at the mall? A family finance advisor has a few tips for staying sane amidst the holiday shopping madness.

This expert says Santa’s got the right idea. Make a list, check it twice and stick to the list. Tony LaRosa, manager of the Ames office of Consumer Credit Counseling Service, says shopping by the list keeps you from grabbing eye-catchers. “Merchants are really good at identifying what’s a good way to get people to impulse buy,” LaRosa says. “A lot of times the things that they stack at the checkout stand, there’s an urge to pick those things up. Having that list with you and learning to stick with it really helps.”

Click on the link below to find the Consumer Credit Counseling Service office closest to you.

Before leaving on the shopping blitz, LaRosa suggests laying out a sensible budget so you can keep groceries in the fridge. Then, he says, leave the credit cards behind and spend only cash to stay within the budget. “When you run out of cash, you’re done spending versus if someone went out and started racking up bills on the credit card, there’s immediate gratification but a lot of times the psychological effect doesn’t hit until sometime next year when the credit card payment goes up higher than what they can afford,” he says.

Another LaRosa suggestion: before leaving for the mall, compile a specific list of items you absolutely need. “When I say need, I don’t mean go out and get things like X-Box that costs a thousand dollars. Is it something they really need or can they do with something a little less costly,” LaRosa says. “That way you don’t go overboard and you don’t have to worry, ‘Gosh, do I have enough money to buy groceries next week?'”

Related web sites:
National Foundation for Credit Counseling