Even though the holidays should be a joyful time to spend with friends and family, many people find themselves stressed out due to financial strain during the gift giving season. But the good news is you can avoid this common holiday pitfall by following the 4 tips listed below:

1. Prepare and use a budget
Sure, you would happily spend a million dollars on gifts if only you could afford it. But if you aren’t a multi-millionaire, it may be crucial to set a strict and fool-proof holiday budget.

Carefully prepare for any expenses by making a list and checking it twice. Write down who you will be buying gifts for with an estimated cost for each person and make sure to include any costs you will incur from hosting parties or attending events as well.

Once you have a final number calculated into your budget, take out that exact amount of cash and spend it accordingly. Make a commitment to yourself to not pull out any more cash once it’s gone, no matter how much you might want to.

2. Shop sales 
Who doesn’t love a good sale? But these deals might be hard to come by if you wait to do your shopping at the last minute. Therefore, it’s important to get your shopping done early so you can scout the best deals on your favorite or most wanted items.

When creating your budget, plan to buy everything at the normal retail price. Then once you find a great deal, you’ll have a little extra cash to supplement whatever budget you set for yourself.

3. The internet is your friend
Shopping at stores that are packed with stressed out shoppers can quickly take the fun out of the holidays. Luckily, you can skip trips to the store by shopping online. Also, you might be able to find great deals that you wouldn’t normally find at your neighborhood mall.

However, a lot of holiday shoppers choose to stay away from buying online because of high shipping costs. But you won’t have to worry about paying for shipping if you focus on sites that offer free shipping on their purchases. This will save you a lot of time, money and frustration which will allow you to enjoy everything the holiday season has to offer rather than dealing with huge crowds and waiting in painfully long lines.

4. Don’t forget to shop local

I know, sounds counter-intuitive to tip number 3. You may be able to find some one of a kind gems at your local non big box stores.  Support your community and find a treasure!

5. It really is the thought that counts 

Who said gifts have to be expensive? Don’t break the bank by buying things you simply can’t afford. Instead, opt to purchase more thoughtful, less expensive items that show just how much you care about the loved ones in your life.

The trick to buying inexpensive yet meaningful gifts is to put a lot of thought into them. Think about who you’re buying the present for and what their interests and passions are. Concentrate on choosing gifts that match their personality and their eyes are sure to light up when opening it, regardless of how much it costs.

The Bottom Line 
The holidays are supposed to be a joyful time, don’t let financial stress ruin the gift giving season. Follow the tips listed above to keep your holiday spending in check so you can enjoy what really matters…spending quality time with those who are closest to you.