Debt Diet Part 6: Holiday meals in a final weekend of shopping

According to a recent survey by Fidelity, putting budgets on a diet is topping many American's list of resolutions for 2010. But WalletPop Debt Dieters have been one step ahead of the curve, dieting since the official start of the holiday season.

Our band of debt-conscious consumers have learned how to decorate tables on a dime and show your money a little respect. But as you head into the last weekend of the shopping season, analysts say dieters are going to need more will power and support than ever before.
"The last minute sales and deals are going to be tempting this weekend," says Peter Dunn, author of "60 Days to Change: A Daily How-To Guide With Actionable Tips for Improving Your Financial Life."

Here's how to dodge debt-causing deals and sidestep shopping sand traps this weekend. Believe me, your diet will thank you on Monday morning!

Monitor fixed monthly expenses
Dunn says the average American has 12 fixed monthly expenses and shouldn't get sucked into adding more. Adding another mobile line to your family plan (just to score a new Droid) or signing up for a similar monthly charge might not seem terrible when you think you're scoring a great deal. "But adding another monthly expense to your budget can cause a big hangover in January," Dunn said.

Household purchases
Limit your household purchases to five this weekend. "In a normal weekend, that includes gas, groceries, maybe a meal or two, and a few other expenses," Dunn said. Those last minute gifts -- or food for holiday meals -- will naturally up the amount you're shelling out this weekend. That means eating at home before heading to the mall. "You'll spend less on a sandwich at home," he said. Chances are, you'll also eat healthier.

Look great for less
You don't have to take out a second mortgage -- or blow your diet -- to look great this Christmas. Billy Lowe, stylist to the stars, says ask for a referral.

"Many salons offer client referral programs where they give clients discounts or incentives for referring new clients to the salon for services," Lowe said. "This is an outstanding way to save on your salon services and a great way to support your salon's business and success." You can also refer friends to your stylist and score yourself a fabulous low-cost make-over, too.

Food on the cheap
In case you're going to be stocking up on holiday fare this weekend, Dunn says these tips will help you stick to your diet at the grocery store. After all, a moment in the cart could be a lifetime on your credit report.
  • Go wide. Stick to the outer aisles and sections. Sure fresh produce seems more expensive than canned or frozen produce, but the health (and flavor) benefits surpass the savings. Eating healthy today can save you BIG bucks at the doc's office tomorrow.
  • Stay in season. Holiday recipes are designed to take advantage of what's in season. Don't be tempted to mix things up with summer or spring fruits that are bound to be more expensive.
  • Save your receipts and carry them with you. Keep a running tally of what you've spent so you're not hit with an unexpected surprise when the credit card bill arrives.
And remember, holiday fun is not proportionate to the amount of dollars spent.

"Opening your wallet this weekend may seem like a good idea, especially as prices drop and last-minute rush items look more and more tempting," Dunn said, "but a little resolve now will go a long way in preventing a holiday spending hangover."

Gina Roberts-Grey is a freelance writer specializing in health, celebrity and consumer issues.
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