The holiday season can be one of the worst times of the year for your wallet, between all the gift giving, decorating, traveling, and excessive baking. The strain on your budget can make you want to pull your hair out, but here are a few tips that will hopefully help you save money and stress.

The holiday season can be one of the worst times of the year for your wallet, between all the gift giving, decorating, traveling, and excessive baking. The strain on your budget can make you want to pull your hair out, but here are a few tips that will hopefully help you save money and stress.

Make a Plan and Stick to a Budget

As Christmas approaches, make sure you have a list of everyone you need to have something for; don’t forget about holiday parties and Secret Santa. Have a clear cut idea of your budget and what you may need to give up in order to afford it. You can go without Starbucks every day for a few months leading up to Christmas, if it means having a little more wiggle room in your budget. When you start nearing your cap, you’ll need to reevaluate and see where you can save money. One holiday does not need to put you in debt. Decide what you have to do this season and what you can skip.

Skip the Christmas Cards

For some people, sending out cards may be a priority, but if it’s not that important to you, not sending them out will save you a ton of money on the cards, printing pictures, and postage. If sending cards is a priority for you, then find ways to shave a little off the cost of Christmas cards.

You don’t need to buy expensive cards or picture collages when simple ones will work just fine, as will your family vacation picture. You don’t need to hire a professional photographer just for your Christmas card. To help save money on postage, hand-deliver the cards of people you know you’ll see-family at Thanksgiving, friends at church, coworkers, etc.

Frugal Gift Wrapping

Wrapping paper is not something a large portion of your budget should go to. Each year, make sure you are saving usable scraps of paper and gift bags and save normal boxes throughout the year so you don’t have to buy up-charged holiday boxes. Bags and boxes can be reused for years and when you have to buy paper or bags, opt for dollar stores where the quality is about the same and the price difference is incredible. And for your less frilly family members, you can always go the newspaper route and wrap with the comic section.

Frugal Christmas Gifting

Christmas gifts take up the majority of our holiday budgets, so knowing exactly who you want to give something to and how much you want to spend is essential. You don’t have to have a fancy gift for everyone on your list.

With large extended families, try doing a gift exchange so every individual family is only buying a few gifts instead of one for every member of their extended family. Homemade gifts can be just as sweet as a store-bought one and can even mean more to the person you’re giving them to.

With children especially, gifts bought from consignment or discount shops can be perfectly fine and half (or more) of the cost. No one cares if the packaging is a little messed up and as long as the toys bought at consignment are clean and in good condition, children won’t be able to tell the difference between that and a brand new version.

If you also are planning ahead, you may be able to find great gifts on clearance during other times of the year that will make great gifts when Christmas comes around and if you’re the type of person that likes to give Christmas decorations as gifts, stock up for the next year during the after-Christmas sales.

Memories over Money

More important than anything is keeping the spirit of the holiday season alive in your home. Making memories while drinking hot coco and watching Christmas movies or going to see all the lights with your family can be an even better experience than just giving presents. Find out what free Christmas events are happening in your city; most places have something for everyone.

Let’s not forget about the season for giving either. Figure out what your family can do to give back during the holiday season. You can always donate your time and make great memories that way, if you don’t have room in your budget for monetary donations.