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4 ways to manage holiday expenses.

From gifts to food to seasonal events, holiday spending can add up quickly. It can be hard to stay on top of a budget in the flurry of holiday celebrations. But it is possible to celebrate and give generously without going into debt. Here are four ways to plan for this year's holiday season and avoid those last-minute impulse purchases that can derail your budget.

  1. Determine in advance how much you can spend.
    Looking at your goals for the year, expenses and income, think about how much you can realistically spend on everything from gifts and decorations to party clothes, holiday cards and travel expenses. To minimize the pinch on your wallet, start setting money aside each week as the holidays approach. You can also look for ways to cut back in other areas during the holiday season. For instance, plan just one or two dinners out a month, freeze your gym membership for a few months or try stretching the time between salon visits.

  2. Set limits for gift-giving.
    Resist the pressure to purchase elaborate gifts for everyone on your list and, instead, figure out how much you can reasonably spend on each person. Consider paying for all holiday expenses with cash or load a prepaid card with the amount you’ve decided to set aside. Otherwise, you could set up a checking or savings account to keep your holiday funds separate from your other finances.

  3. Think ahead to come up with affordable gifts.
    Look for ways to show people you care without breaking the bank. Chances are, your friends and loved ones are trying to stay within a budget, too, and will appreciate a jar of your homemade jam or a framed picture of a memorable event you shared. For holiday celebrations with your coworkers or book club pals, think about making homemade treats or doing a Secret Santa gift exchange. With your family, explore ways to save like setting spending limits or turning the holiday party into a potluck. If you have siblings, ask them if they’d like to go in on a present for mom or dad.

  4. Look for ways to save.
    Before you shop online, do a quick web search for coupon codes from your favorite online stores. Check sites like RetailMeNot for online and in-store offers from national retailers. If you’re headed to the mall, take a look at the flyers that fill your mailbox this time of year for the best prices.

The holidays are a special time to celebrate with family and friends. With a spending plan in place, you can still spread holiday cheer without looking like a scrooge — and ring in the new year without a holiday spending hangover.

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