Holiday budgeting: Finish your list without breaking the bank

(CBS News) The holiday season usually means spending more money -- especially on gifts for family and friends -- and that doesn't sit well with a lot of folks.

Credit cards: Which are the best for the holidays?
Holiday gifts for him

In fact, according to Think Finance -- a provider of financial services for consumers with limited access to banking services -- as many as 45 percent of Americans say they would just as soon skip Christmas this year.

But there are ways to limit the stress and strain of the season by reining in your holiday budget.

Alexa Von Tobel, founder and CEO of LearnVest.com, spoke to Anthony Mason about how best to plan and just how much to spend on each person.

Von Tobel starts with some bigger picture financial advice -- what she calls the "50/20/30 rule."

"Whatever money you take home, 50 percent should go to your room and board," she said. "20 percent needs to pay for the future, and 30 percent is the lifestyle choices -- all the decisions that you get to make for the fun stuff."

So, what about the holidays?

Von Tobel says about five to 20 percent of your take-home pay can go towards the holidays. But if you don't have an emergency savings account or if you have a lot of debt, she strongly urges keeping that number closer to the five to 10 percent range.

"One of the things that we know is most people -- almost half the country -- is still carrying some sort of debt from the last holiday period," she said.

That's not to say that credit cards aren't a good way to shop.

"Cash is always smart," Von Tobel said. "But we love credit cards -- if you are responsible. They can give you points back, cash back, and even some sort of insurance. We like things if you can be smart about it -- a zero percent APR. But you have to beware because those rates can jump back up."

To get all of Alexa Von Tobel's tips, watch the video by clicking on the video player above.

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