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Financial Belts Not as Tight for Holidays, Survey Shows

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Fewer Americans say they'll be tightening their financial belts during the holiday season this year, a private study shows.

The Consumer Federation of American and the Credit Union National Association released the results of a joint survey forecasting the holiday shopping season. Among the chief findings: 43 percent of consumers say they'll cut back on holiday spending. That's better than the 55 percent who said the same thing a year ago amid the throes of a massive national recession.

The improved data, however, still lags behind 2000 to 2007 figures.

Americans are still worried about their financial situations – 36 percent say they're worse off this year, 19 percent say they're better off and 44 percent say their situations are about the same.

But fewer consumers are worried about meeting their monthly debt payments – 24 percent compared with 28 percent a year ago.

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The CFA and CUNA also offer some common-sense advice to avoid breaking the bank during the holidays.

Among the tips:

• Prepare a budget and make a price list of the gifts you plan to buy.

• Shop around for deals using the Internet or even the phone.

• Avoid overloading on debt. Pay cash when able, but if you use a credit card, pay of the debt as quickly as possible.

• Shop for next year's holidays right after this year's are over. Great bargains are to be had.