The holiday season is a time of joy, celebration, and togetherness. It’s also a time when you might find yourself digging deep into your pockets to accommodate the expenses that come with gift-giving, family meals, and other festivities. But you don’t have to descend into financial turmoil and stress over how you’ll pay for it all. With some careful planning and a few budgeting strategies, you can enjoy the festivities without breaking the bank.

Here are 10 practical tips to help you keep the fun in your holiday celebrations by managing expenses:

1. Create a Detailed Holiday Budget

The first thing you can do to avoid financial stress during the holidays is to create a detailed budget. Start by listing all the potential expenses you may have, including gifts, decorations, travel, food, and entertainment. Assign a specific amount of money to each category and make sure it’s realistic and manageable. Creating a clear overview of your expenses will help you stay on track and avoid impulse spending.

2. Prioritize Your Spending

Not all of your holiday expenses are created equal. Determine which parts of the holidays are most important to you and your family. For example, if spending time with loved ones is a top priority, allocate more of your budget to travel and entertainment instead of expensive gifts. By prioritizing what matters most, you can direct your finances where they’ll have a more positive impact on your holiday experiences.

3. Start Saving Early

The best way to avoid the last-minute scramble to fund your holiday expenses is to save early in the year. If it’s a bit late to do it for this year, start preparing for next year. Open a dedicated savings account and contribute a little each month. Even a small monthly contribution can really add up by the time the holiday season arrives. This is a much better way to cover your expenses than resorting to credit cards or loans.

4. Set Gift-Giving Limits

Giving gifts can be a significant expense during the holiday season, but it doesn’t have to be massive. Think about setting limits on the number of gifts you’ll exchange or the amount you’ll spend on each one. Another great idea (and a fun one) is exploring alternatives to traditional gift-giving, such as homemade gifts or organizing a gift exchange where each person only buys one gift. It’s a great way for you to express your love and appreciation without straining your budget.

5. Make a Shopping List

One of the biggest budget busters of all time is impulse buying. To curb this temptation, create a detailed shopping list and stick to it. Include the names of everyone you intend to buy gifts for, as well as specific ideas you have for each person. When you go shopping, follow your list religiously to avoid spontaneous purchases that can derail your budget.

6. Take Advantage of Sales and Discounts

Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and other holiday sales events offer fantastic opportunities to save money on gifts and other purchases. Keep an eye out for deals and discounts and plan your shopping accordingly—and still stick to your list! You may also make use of coupons, cashback offers, or loyalty programs to stretch your budget even further.

7. DIY Decorations and Gifts

Get creative and consider making your own holiday decorations and gifts. This can even become a family tradition and is lots of fun too. Handmade items not only have sentimental value but can also be budget friendly. Whether you craft homemade ornaments or bake cookies to give away as gifts, your personal touch will be appreciated, and your wallet will thank you.

8. Plan Affordable Activities

Holiday activities don’t have to be extravagant to be meaningful. Look for free or low-cost events and experiences in your community. Attend local tree lighting ceremonies and concerts, visit public light displays, or have a potluck dinner with friends and family. These activities can provide loads of fun and create meaningful holiday memories, without the hefty price tag.

9. If You’re Traveling, Consider Alternatives

Travel expenses can take up a huge part of your holiday budget. If possible, explore alternative travel options to save yourself some money. Consider driving instead of flying, staying with friends or family instead of booking hotels, or using travel rewards points to offset costs. A little flexibility and planning ahead can help you find cost-effective ways to reach your holiday destination.

10. Track and Adjust Your Budget

As you’re going through the holidays, keep a close eye on your spending. Check your budget regularly to ensure you’re staying on track. If you notice your spending is exceeding the amounts you allocated for certain categories, adjust your spending in other areas to compensate. Being proactive and flexible with your budget can help prevent financial stress from building up, which is the last thing you need during the holidays.

The holiday season should be a time of joy, not a source of financial stress and worry. By following these simple tips, you can enjoy the festivities without draining your bank account. Remember, the true spirit of the holidays lies in the love and connection you share with others, not material things. You can create life-long memories without the burden of debt.