How to Tackle Your Holiday Shopping This Season

The holidays are an exciting time of year. The good food and even better company make the anticipation for the holiday season all the more worthwhile. That is, until you open your wallet.

The pain of financing gifts for your family and friends sure can put a damper on your holiday cheer more than your uncle's bad jokes. But, there is a way to enjoy the holidays and keep your bank account intact (as for your uncle's jokes, well, you're on your own).

Make a Plan
The key to controlling your spending this year is to make a plan. Determine how many people you will be buying gifts for and the amount you are willing to spend on each person. Keeping track of people and prices will help you to keep your budget on track.

Start before the Snow Falls
To avoid holiday prices -- and a mad dash to get gifts on time -- start planning before the holiday season rolls around. Think of potential gifts for your loved ones all year round to keep ahead of the game and to snag sweet deals.

Try Your Hand at Homemade
The best gifts are the ones that take time to piece together. What better way to show your love for someone than to make them a gift from scratch? Tie blankets, mason-jar goodies and other knickknacks can easily be turned into one-of-a-kind gifts that won't leave you scrounging for this month's rent.

Participate in a Gift Exchange
Secret Santa and White Elephant gift exchanges are around for a reason. It's the perfect way to still give (and, let's be honest, receive) gifts without having to buy for multiple people. Plan a gift exchange with a group of friends or family so you only have to buy for a few people. To save even more, set a dollar amount everyone must stay under. You save money and get a holiday treat. Everyone wins.

Don't Go Overboard
It's easy to feel like you need to purchase multiple gifts for people -- but you don't. Take your time, do your research and give one gift that really suits the person. No one likes to receive five mindless gifts. Do your homework and hit your loved ones with a thoughtful gift that they'll be sure to love.

It's the Most Wonderful Time to Say No
So all of your friends want to exchange gifts this year, and a group of coworkers would lik to swap gifts for the holidays, too. News flash: You don't need to buy gifts for everyone in your life. Suggest starting a holiday tradition of doing something fun -- like checking out a movie your group has been dying to see or making dinner plans at that new restaurant downtown instead of exchanging gifts. That way, you can spend quality time with the people you care about without the sting of overspending.

Remember the True Meaning of the Holidays
If, despite your best penny-pinching tactics, you still find yourself strapped for cash, just remember the real meaning of the holidays is to spend time with family and friends -- not to give and receive presents. If you just can't fork out the money this year, be honest with yourself and with your loved ones -- you'll feel better and they'll understand. Besides, we all know that it's truly the thought that counts.

Photo by jayneandd via cc