Surviving the invitation season

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The month of May ushers in a season of bliss and happiness. Many family and friends are graduating from school, getting married, or both! However, the excitement and circumstance of celebrating such events can leave a big hole in your wallet. In today's rough economic climate, it can be tough to get through the "invitation" season with money and credit still intact.

The financial experts at Money Management International (MMI) - a full service credit counseling agency - are here to help. The following tips are available to help you celebrate the season without breaking the bank.

Know what you can afford. Start planning as early as possible for seasonal spending. Decide how much you can afford to spend and develop a budget and spending plan to help you stay on track.

Know what it all costs. Some celebrations involve much more expenses than just gifts. Total all costs including gift wrap, shipping, greeting cards, postage, baby-sitting, and new clothes.

Know who's on your gift list. Wherever possible, pare down the list. Determine how much you can afford to spend on each person, and stick to that amount.

Know when to stop. Go home when you have checked the last name off the list.

Get creative. Great gifts don't necessarily have to cost a lot of money. Make homemade goodies, pick flowers from your garden or assemble a photo album.

Finally, don't forget why this season is so joyful. It's an opportunity to celebrate with family and loved ones. Don't get caught up in buying the most expensive and lavish gift. Enjoy celebrating your loved one's special moment.