If you’re like many shoppers, the idea of spending hundreds or more on gifts during the holiday season is stressful. Thankfully, there are many ways to help you stay within your budget while searching for the perfect gifts — and it starts with setting a budget and sticking to it. Whether you’re shopping for a few close friends or your extended family, consider these tips to help you stay within your holiday gift budget and get through the season without burning a hole in your pocket.

Set a Budget and Gift Price Limits

To stick to a budget, you need to create one first. Not sure where to begin? U.S. News and World Report (U.S. News) recommends looking back at your holiday gift purchases from last year to help you recollect who you shopped for and what kinds of gifts you purchased. This can help you create a base for this year’s budget and gift list. You’ll also want to consider your current financial situation and be realistic about how much money you can afford to spend. U.S. News states that you should start saving early, and remember to set funds aside for upcoming expenses and travel plans (and don’t forget to have an emergency fund). Lastly, you should set price limits per gift to help you stay on track. Plan to spend a certain dollar amount for each friend, child or family member on your list and do your best to stick to it.

Start Early and Space Out Purchases

By brainstorming and shopping for gifts early, you will have more time to research deals throughout the year and pay a fair price, says Forbes. Keep in mind that prices typically increase during the holiday season based on a low supply and high demand — so shopping early can be especially important when it comes to gifts that are predicted to be popular for the holidays. When you shop early and space out purchases, you can also avoid spending a large chunk of your paycheck at one time, making it easier to stick to your budget and get ahead on your gift list.

Take Advantage of Free Shipping

According to Forbes, major retailers may offer free shipping around the holidays. For large or hard-to-find gifts, consider researching them online and take advantage of free shipping promotions when available — not only is this a great way to save a drive to the store, but you can shop from the convenience of your home and avoid the holiday shopping rush. Just be sure to plan accordingly and remember to order online items well in advance of the holiday. This can help you ensure that they will arrive on time.

Get Creative with DIY Gifts

Homemade gifts can wow your recipients, so if your budget is small this year, consider getting crafty and make do-it-yourself gifts. If you’re not typically someone who crafts or makes homemade presents, it could be a great way to learn new skills or discover hobbies. Baking a batch of homemade cookies or knitting a soft blanket or hat are a few DIY gifts that can show recipients that you care, says U.S. News. These kinds of presents, while thoughtful, may also help you keep a little more money in your bank account.

Give A Shared Gift

If the number of people on your holiday shopping list is overwhelming, giving a gift that an entire group can share may help, says The Spruce. This is a great way to make sure everyone receives a gift and feels included without breaking the bank. For example, treat an entire family on your shopping list to a movie or dinner at their favorite restaurant, rather than giving individual gifts. You could also suggest a gift exchange among your group of friends and propose a price limit — that way, everyone receives a present and is comfortable with a set budget.

The holidays are meant to bring joy — not an overwhelming feeling of stress due to an expensive list of presents. By staying within a budget and focusing on thoughtful gifts, you can enjoy a happy, healthy holiday that doesn’t break the bank.

Originally published on December 6, 2011.

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