The holiday shopping season officially starts this week when doors open on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving. For many Florida residents, the excitement of the deals and the long holiday gift list can cause normally thrifty people to throw caution to the wind. In fact, economists estimate that this year holiday shopping will increase by more than four percent compared with last year, which would be the biggest increase any time in the past decade.

However, the slow economic recovery is still taking a toll on many Floridians, and consumers should be cautious about spending too much with an uncertain job market and a tepid housing market. There are ways to avoid the mania and stay in control of the amount you spend on Black Friday. Experts remind us that being a savvy holiday shopper isn’t just about finding the best deals, it’s about carefully balancing the wish list with the items you actually purchase.

One tip to avoid racking up too much credit card debt this holiday season is to make a plan before you venture out to the mall. Keep a list of the items that you are shopping for and research prices and deals before leaving the house. That way you can avoid making impulse buys or taking an apparent deal on an item that doesn’t actually save you money.

Another smart way to keep holiday spending in check is to limit yourself to the use of one credit card. Select the card with the lowest interest rate and remove the others from your wallet. Download a mobile app to track your balance throughout the day, or make sure to login from your home computer when you get back.

Being careful with credit cards also means avoiding tempting store-specific card offers. Interest rates may be low for one month or the card may offer a discount that day, but remember that when the time comes to pay it off, those cards often won’t save any money unless the balance is paid in full right away. Think carefully about whether this is realistic or not given your other debt obligations.

Source: Associated Press, “5 tips to steer clear of debt in holiday spending” Dave Carpenter, Nov. 14