It's (almost) the most wonderful time of the year. A time to be among family and friends, filling your tummy to the brim with tasty holiday treats. And most importantly, a time to shop 'til you drop!
There's only one problem: It's far too easy to get so caught up in all the fun that you overextend yourself and spend the next few months battling a severe case of buyer's remorse until your bank account can breathe again.
Here are a few tips to help you keep your holiday spending in check this year.
Get Your Budget Together... and Soon
If money's tight, don't wait until December 1 to start thinking about how you're going to come up with the funds to purchase gifts. Start making plans now and you'll thank yourself later. And don't just map it all out in your head — whip out your budget and look for expenses to ax so you can free up funds.
Once you've determined how much you can realistically afford to save each week, multiply that amount by the number of weeks you have left to shop. And voila, there is your holiday budget. That's the easy part, though. The hard part is actually sticking to it, which can easily be pulled off by using cash. (More on that later.)
Make a List, Check It Twice
It's always a good idea to jot down the names of the individuals you're shopping for. But once you've made the list and checked it twice, you need to make cuts to accommodate your budget. Again, your primary concern is only spending what you can afford.
Proceed With Caution on "Sale" Items
Not all sales are created equal. Some offer goods and services at a steeply discounted rate, while others only extend a minimal discount. You also have to worry about those retailers who might mark up the original price, then reduce it to create the illusion of saving money.
To avoid these deceptive tactics and ensure you get the best bang for your buck, be sure to check DealNews for actual price lows, and download our app for on-the-go price checks.
Use Cash or Debit
The only time you should use credit cards for holiday shopping is to earn rewards or take advantage of buyer protections, and only if you can afford to pay the balance in full before interest is tacked on. Otherwise, brace yourself for a debt hangover.
Cash always reigns supreme if you want to stay off the credit card debt train. Once the money's gone, your shopping must immediately come to a halt. And if you even consider whipping out a credit card, chances are you'll feel guilty about it.
Avoid "Retail Therapy" Friends
If you're making a conscious effort to keep your spending in check, the last thing you need is that a friend by your side who routinely goes overboard. (You know, that friend who decides to resort to retail therapy as a coping mechanism after a long week at work, no matter what their bank account says.) Do yourself a favor and find a more financially responsible shopping buddy, or ditch their company altogether.
Don't Forget About the Little Things
Gifts probably aren't the only items you'll be purchasing this holiday season. How about fancy decor for your home, food for the gatherings held at your place, or that shiny gift wrap?
When planning your Thanksgiving and December shindigs, remember that less is more! And don't forget to hit the seasonal sale racks in January to stock up on discounted holiday gear for next year.
The same rule applies for food; only purchase what you actually need and you'll save yourself the headache of trying to figure out where to store all those smelly leftovers. Or you can host a potluck and make everyone pitch in.
Regift, Regift, Regift
Sounds taboo, right? Well, if you have unused gift cards or unopened gifts lying around, why not pass them along to someone who'll actually put them to good use? Plus, you'll soften the blow to your wallet and free up more room for others in your holiday budget. That's a win-win for everyone!
It's the Thought That Counts
You've probably heard this one before, but it's great to keep in mind when your holiday budget is beyond compact. Plus, there are some loved ones that can't be kicked off the gift list.
Instead of spending a bundle, get creative and make a gift that requires a minimal investment to cover supplies. Candy jars, homemade jewelry, or custom recipe books, anyone?
Shop Smart for Travel
For those of you who'll be taking a flight to be with family and friends in the upcoming weeks, start stalking airfare prices now. You can sign up for instant price alerts from airfare tracker tools, like Airfarewatchdog and FareCompare.
Also, don't forget to explore bundle deals if you'll also need a rental car or lodging. Most importantly, keep an open mind; now is not the time to pledge your allegiance to a particular airline, rental car, or lodging provider.
This story originally appeared on DealNews.