Plan it with a budget—always! A budget—which includes all possible holiday expenses such as travel, decorations, holiday clothing, and gift wrapping—will go a long a way in helping you avoid overspending and debt.
Make a gift list. Make an extensive list of all family members, friends, teachers, and others that you need to purchase gifts for so you can accurately define your budget, then set a specific amount you want to spend for each category of recipients.
Track your spending. After each purchase, track your spending and make sure you're staying within your financial limits.
Plan the way you'll pay—cash or credit. If cash, set aside savings for your spending from each remaining pay period before the holidays. If credit, make a repayment plan to avoid carrying unnecessary debt well into next year. If you need a new source of funds for the holidays, consider a seasonal job or suspending certain luxuries for a couple of months.
Set deadlines for new debt. If you do incur debt over the holidays, manage it wisely by setting a deadline in the New Year to pay it off.
Shop the deals. Sign up for email lists of your favorite retailers so you receive notifications of exclusive discounts.
Look for travel deals. Book your travel early and use online tools such as Expedia or Kayak to comparison shop. Use carry-on luggage to avoid excessive fees and avoid peak travel dates where possible.
Start saving earlier next year. In January, open a Christmas Club savings account. Even setting aside as little as $20 per pay period can help you be better financially ready for the next holiday season.