The holidays should not be about fender benders in mall parking lots, going broke on overnight shipping for last minute gifts, or racking up credit card debt. They should be about not fitting into your pants come the New Year.

Just kidding. (Kind of.) In addition to eggnog and star-shaped cookies, the holidays are about love and family and togetherness. And yet Americans are planning to pull out out their wallets early and often. A Gallup poll found that US adults estimate that they will spend about $885 on gifts in 2018, with a third of respondents planning to spend at least $1,000.

Now, add a little bit more to the balance sheet, since we tend to underestimate our spending. With big, tempting sales on every page of the internet, impulse buying and overspending are hard to avoid. In December of 2017, 24 percent of millennial shoppers reported they hadn't paid off their credit card from last Christmas.

Don't let this be you. Nix the stress of overspending by sticking to these guidelines.

Set a Budget

Credit Cards

Without an idea of how much to spend, the chances of overdoing it — oh, look at these cute elf-shaped pancake molds! — are as high-flying as Santa's sleigh.

Scott Hannah, head of the Credit Counseling Society, told Canada's Global News that a reasonable gift budget is around 1 percent of your gross annual income.

But if even that allowance seems too high, don't be afraid to slash it. Gifts aren't necessities, and there are a lot of variables and discrepancies that would make reasonable spending plans for families with similar incomes look very different, said Hannah.

Factor in Gift Wrapping

One budget line item you need to include is money for gift wrapping and cards. Those $5 letterpress beauties add up fast.

One of IKEA's best kept secrets is their holiday wrapping, and who doesn't love a classic and homespun brown butcher paper tied with a red yarn bow?

Make a List, Check It Twice

me & my BIG Ideas

Now it's time for the nitty-gritty. Make a list that includes: who you're buying for, what you're buying, and how much you'll spend in total. That last figure is key. It should equal roughly 80 percent of your budget, advises Chime, to allow yourself a little wiggle room.

Band Together

The perfect, perfect gift can sometimes come with a price tag that's beyond your budget. See if you can get a few relatives or friends to "go in" together on a special gift with you, advises The Spruce. The lucky recipient would surely rather have that Hudson Bay blanket they've always wanted instead of four smaller gifts they don't need or desire.

Nix "One for Them, One for Me"

Nearly 60 percent of people indulge in "self-gifting," reports the National Retail Federation, spending $130 on ourselves on average. When hitting stores for gift cards, 72 percent of shoppers report getting something for themselves before checkout.

Money-saving master Scott Alan Turner institutes a "no shopping on Amazon for yourself" rule for the month of December.

"If I want something, I can add it to my wishlist or ask for it for Christmas. Our rule also helps avoid splurging and spending less," he advises. "This is the season for giving, not receiving. If you find something you can't live without, add it to your wishlist. If nobody buys it for you, pick it up on sale after Christmas for yourself."

But….there are some killer sales right now and you really do need a new down coat. Far be it from us to say don't treat yourself, but be aware of how much you're spending on yourself when shopping.

Shop Early

Start now! Make your list! Make your budget! You'll be able to get the gifts you want sent via slower and cheaper shipping. The real crusher is when you wait and have no choice but to cough up for overnight shipping costs.

Don't Lose Your Mind With the Kids

Try Scott Alan Turner's rule of four: Give one want, one need, one wear, and one read.

Remember Your Intentions

Forgive the corny sentiment, but 'tis the season: it really is the thought that counts. This time of year, remember what's truly behind each gift you give.

"The point is to acknowledge that other person's positive influence on your life," writes Jennifer Wolf at The Spruce. "'Thank you' and 'I love you' are phrases that don't come with dollar amounts attached to them, so don't allow yourself to be caught up in spending more on holiday gifts than you can afford."

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I thought I had a pretty good handle on my finances out of school. I worked several jobs while attending university and had little to no problem managing my income. However, once I graduated, I realized how much more complicated personal accounting could really be.

There were so many variables I needed to keep track of. Biweekly bills, monthly charges, and general necessities amounted to a heap of confusing numbers that were often impossible to decipher. The funniest part was that I was actually trying to do this by hand (I don't know what I was trying to prove to myself, either).

After messing up for the 17th time, I decided to give Microsoft Excel a shot. I used Excel a bit in school and I knew all the big-wig finance people used it, so what could I possibly have to lose? The answer is about six hours of my precious time. Excel isn't much of an improvement over handwriting and it's still dependent on the user to manually input all of the information. It's like doing everything by hand with the slightest help, meaning that it still required a tremendous amount of time and concentration. Well that was all for nothing, I guess.

It's sort of funny. I was certain that I could manage my personal finances with ease, when it's practically a full-time job. I was already stressed out enough with my first job and I knew I didn't have enough time to give my finances the attention it deserved.

That's why I decided to try out a budgeting app. My best friend told me that he uses an app called Truebill to manage his finances. "What does it even mean to manage your finances?" I asked him. He told me that Truebill was the personal financial assistant I wished I could have. It could aggregate all of my account information into one place and give me specific insights and actions.

I loved the idea of having full control over my finances, especially during a time of financial uncertainty, and I realized that Truebill would be the easiest way to accomplish this. The user interface is incredibly simple and intuitive, so it doesn't even feel like a finance app! Truebill offers a multitude of features, with their most popular being the ability to cancel subscriptions with the press of a button.

Okay, I had no idea how many subscriptions I was still subscribed to. In fact, I wasn't even using a quarter of the subscription services I was signed up for. Subscription boxes, streaming services, my old gym, and even an old subscription to my favorite magazine--it was all there and I was livid. How could I let myself waste all of this money and how did I never catch this? Thank goodness for Truebill.

Truebill also offers bill negotiations. There is a 40% fee based on how much you save and Truebill even claims that there is an 85% chance that they'll be able to lower your bill once a negotiation is requested. Why wouldn't I take them up on this? There was zero risk and I would only have to pay once my bill was lowered (which means that I would be saving money regardless).

More standard features of Truebill include the ability to generate a credit report on-demand and even request a pay advance. I only used the pay advance feature once when I wanted to buy a gift for my mom, but didn't have enough cash in hand and Truebill automatically reimbursed itself when I got my next paycheck.

The credit report is another fantastic feature and practically taught me what good credit meant. Truebill's credit report basically shows you which financial decisions have the most significant impact on your credit score and ways that you can improve your credit month-over-month. I've never had such control over my credit and it feels good.

I'll be the first to admit that I was extremely naive coming out of school. I figured that as long as I was attentive, I could manage my finances with ease. We manage money to some extent throughout our entire lives, but once you're thrown out on your own, it's a completely different story. With Truebill, I've finally been able to take control over my finances and stay on top of all of my responsibilities.

Update: Our friends at Truebill are extending a special offer to our readers! Follow this link to sign-up for Truebill.

My buddies and I always try to make it out to a game, but we never really care which one we end up at. Obviously we have our favorite sports and teams, but it was rarely about what game we went to or who we saw playing. It was about watching the game live.

In the early months of lockdown, all we had was Korean baseball, and trust me, we loved it. The only issue was, none of us had any idea what the commentators were saying. Even then, a few of my friends weren't huge fans of baseball. They were into sports like football and basketball, ones that moved at a quicker pace with less down-time in between plays.

We decided to see if there were any other events going down and came across horse racing. Yes, horse racing. It was perfect--short, fast-paced, and most importantly, an opportunity for betting.

I had never really considered watching a horse race any time other than the Belmont Stakes, but the prospects of the sport seemed exhilarating. Even better, with horse racing we knew we could still recreate the atmosphere of a race track. Salty snacks? Check. Stale beer? Check. A simple and easy way to bet? Check.

One quick Google search later, we came across TVG, powered by FanDuel. It's an online betting platform that takes you right to the heart of the action. We were a little apprehensive about using a mobile app to place our bets, but TVG's ability to bet on live horse races from all over the world was too good to pass up.

Here are 5 reasons why we are obsessed with horse racing thanks to TVG:

1. Betting has never been easier

Use your phone or computer to watch and bet on live horse races in real-time. TVG offers a bunch of features to make betting even simpler--live odds and handicapping tips leverage recent learnings to help you make your best bet. Not to mention, TVG's exclusive race content and wagering guide offers an under-the-hood look into the strategy behind horse race betting.

2. The biggest selection of horse races out there

If you're looking to drop a little dough on a horse race, chances are your best option is your local race track. But watching the same few horses races over and over again isn't the most exciting thing. With TVG you have access to over 150 tracks worldwide with races happening consistently throughout the day.

3. Get a generous sign-up offer when you place your first bet

Once you register your account, you will be eligible for a $200 risk-free bet. All you have to do is place your first bet and you're covered. If you happen to lose, TVG will insure you for up to $200 as a sort of wagering credit. I may have been a little trigger happy when placing my first bet, so having this insurance was a great perk. There are also a bunch of promotional offers available year-round.

4. Making deposits and cashing out at the touch of button

With a ton of payment options such as PayPal, BetCash, debit/credit, wire transfers, and other third-party services, making a deposit is a breeze. But what about the payout? Depending on your deposit method, your withdrawal will be available in a few days. No more waiting in-line to collect your winnings!

5. Watching live races with your friends while betting is exhilarating

Even when we were watching Korean baseball, Zoom calls with my friends were a little dull.

With TVG, we haven't had this sort of fun in months! Every weekend we'll turn on a race and throw our bets in. After a few races, and quite a few drinks, we'll tally up our winnings to see who won the most! Sometimes it's not even about making money, but just having a good time.

TVG is the perfect way to add a little excitement to an otherwise mundane afternoon. It introduced me to the world of horse racing, a sport I never would have considered otherwise.

The races just keep ramping up and thanks to TVG, I can always get in on the fun.

UPDATE: The biggest derby in horse racing is THIS WEEKEND. Get in on the action with your $200 risk-free bet!

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