If you’re like me, every holiday season I swear that next year I am going to be better prepared, more organized, and less stressed. And every year I disappoint myself. Now that the frenzy of holiday shopping is upon us, here is a list of some ideas to consider to help make it through the holidays without losing our wallets and our sanity.

One of the most important things you can do is make a list of who you need or want to buy holiday gifts for and create a realistic budget. It’s important to note that everyone’s financial situation is different and what seems realistic for one person may not be for others. Once you’ve created a list and a budget; try to stick to it.

Another idea for keeping your spending in check this holiday season is to leave your debit/credit cards at home. It seems like we are living in a cash-free world these days. Debit/Credit cards are convenient, but you are more likely to lose track of your spending and go over budget when plastic is concerned. If you can’t leave your card at home, you could set up text alerts on your account that will notify you when you’ve reached a certain balance in your account or if you’ve made a purchase over a certain amount. Another option you can consider is purchasing a prepaid gift card.  You can load the card with a specific amount and that way you might be less likely to overspend. Our Visa gift card makes great gifts for the holidays, or you could purchase one for yourself for your holiday shopping.

Some of the best presents that I’ve ever received have been handmade gifts. If you consider yourself a somewhat crafty person, there are a never-ending amount of gift ideas that you can find online that you could make for gifts to give. Get your kids or grandkids involved and it could be not only a cheaper option for gifts, but a new holiday tradition for you and your loved ones.

If you have a ridiculously large extended family like me, secret Santa or gift exchange games are a great way to cut down on the amount of people that you are buying presents for. In our family, we set a price range and all of the children draw one other person’s name to shop for. Not only is this a great way to save a little money, but it also helps encourage small children to get involved in the spirit of giving.

If you haven’t already utilized it, a good idea for next year is to start a Christmas Club account. There is no minimum balance required to earn dividends, and no monthly service fees. You have the option of depositing extra money to it whenever you want, and you can set up payroll deductions or automatic transfers.  The funds will be dispersed to your savings account automatically on October 1.

No matter your strategy, the most important thing to remember isn’t how much you’ve spent, or that everyone on your list gets everything that they want. It’s remembering the reason for the season. This is the time of the year to focus on what is important to you. Whether that reason is based on your religious beliefs, or just enjoying time with those you love, it’s vital that we try to not get caught up in the consumerism and materialism that can sometimes rear its ugly head this time of year.

Even with all these suggestions, I’m sure that once again, I will overspend and be scrambling at the last minute to finish up my holiday shopping this year. The time spent with my loved ones, however, will all be worth it.