COLUMBIA, Mo. -Families feeling financial stress can reduce holiday shopping anxiety through planning and by following a few basic tips, said a University of Missouri Extension personal finance specialist.

Suzi McGarvey offers these suggestions for keeping holiday spending under control:

- "Set a limit and stick to it," McGarvey said. Make a list of people you must buy for and how much you plan to spend on each. If the total is over your limit, try to make adjustments by looking for alternative presents before you start your shopping.

- "Try to avoid paying for all of your purchases with a credit card. If you must use a credit card, closely check the small print that allows for increases in your interest rate," she said.

- Check out store promotions or special sales, but make sure you fully understand the terms and conditions. Search clearance racks for sale items.

- Shop alone. A tired spouse or child may encourage you to impulsively buy some items so the family can get home sooner.

- Don't wait until the last minute. Give yourself time to compare prices. With the tight economy and low consumer confidence, many retailers are offering lower prices to attract business.

- Keep your receipts and pay attention to return policies.

- Be creative with your gifts. Consider giving homemade items or personalized gifts.