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MAKING A LIST AND CHECKING IT TWICE - OR MORE

* Managing debt, particularly during the holidays, is crucial. American consumers carry $3.8 trillion in debt - almost as much as the United States federal debt of $4.3 trillion, according to the Federal Reserve Board.

``If a family is going to lose control of consumer debt, it will most likely happen during the months of November and December,'' says Edward Demsey, a certified financial planner for IDS Financial Services in Albany, N.Y.

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IDS suggests calculating gift expenditures into family financial plans. When the cost of holiday gifts is added to the expense of birthday, wedding, and graduation presents, for example, it can become a big portion of the family budget.

The company also advocates sticking to a budget, making lists, and using cash and checks whenever possible.