It’s difficult to enjoy “the most wonderful time of the year” when money is tight. Here are some tips to help you stay within your budget this holiday season.

Set expectations

The holiday season should be about making memories, not spending money. If money is tight, let your loved ones know gifts will be minimal this year. Avoid any unwanted gift-giving guilt on Christmas morning by discussing gift expectations with your family beforehand. You may also consider a Secret Santa exchange or other gift-giving games. Another option is to skip gifts altogether.

Track your spending

Make a list of everyone you’d like to buy a gift for and the dollar amount you’d like to spend. Create another column where you can document the total amount spent on each recipient. Save your receipts to keep track of whether you are spending more or less than expected. Don’t forget to include outings, travel, food and drink in your seasonal budget. Those daily specialty holiday lattes can put a dent in your budget if you’re not careful.

Use cash

It’s easy to stretch your budget with a credit card, so try using cash on your next shopping venture. Dividing up the appropriate amounts of cash is the simplest way to stay within your spending limits. Remember, you can’t overspend what you don’t physically have. If you don’t want to carry a wad of cash to the department stores, try purchasing prepaid cards instead.

Don’t let the holiday season creep up on you again next year. Start putting aside money each paycheck so you have a stronger budget for the 2018 holiday shopping season. Stop into any FFCU branch location and open up a Christmas Club account to begin saving today!