NEW YORK ( LowCards.com) -- The holiday shopping rush is on, and paying with a credit card makes it is easy to be in the spirit of buying and giving without paying attention to how much money is being spent. January credit card bills bring the cold reality of debt and interest payments, though, and you could be paying for Christmas 2012 long after the gifts are forgotten. Here are 10 tips to make this an affordable holiday season: 1. Make a budget and a shopping list. Start with what you spent last year and then keep a record of all gift purchases and holiday expenses -- from postage stamps to the food for the office party. It is hard for shoppers to make a budget and easy to underestimate their spending. The average holiday shopper will spend $749 on gifts, according to a survey by the National Retail Federation: $421 on children, parents and other relatives; $75 on friends; $23 on co-workers; $28 on others; $100 on food and candy; $28 on greeting cards; and $19 on flowers. MA) Price Protection offers this for 60 days; Citi ( C) Price Rewind offers this for 30. You may have to register the purchase online as well as keep your store and credit card receipts as proof of purchase. 7. If you are going to carry a balance, contact your issuer and ask for a lower rate. Issuers may not be as willing to negotiate as they were several years ago, but it doesn't hurt to ask. 8. Don't use the convenience checks that appear in your mailbox this time of year. These promotional checks look like free money, with zero-percent offers in bold print, and may seem like a tempting way to pay for holiday shopping. But read the terms and conditions to know exactly what you are getting. There is typically a 3% or 4% fee for using these checks, and they can charge a higher interest rate. 9. Use your rewards points for holiday shopping. These can be used to buy gift cards with many retailers. 10. Pay attention to partner programs. Most credit card issuers have a partner program that offers discounts or bonuses for online purchases with certain companies. The programs vary by issuer, but the partners could be stores where you already shop. Discover ( DFS) turns $20 rewards into $25 gift cards. Citi gives an additional 1% to 5% cash back when you shop at their online partners.