The warm cookie aroma and festive light displays can only mean two things: the holidays are here and so are the extra expenses. Don’t let December break your bottom line.  Dash through the season with the following 5 financial tips to help you sleigh your holiday budget:

1. Make a List, Check it Twice

 Jot down what, and who you need to buy for this year. Before you start wheeling and dealing out gifts – first, make sure you’ve accounted for all of your holiday travel expenses and traditional grocery needs. Once you have those covered, now we can move on to fun stuff: presents!

Write down each person you plan to buy for and assign a set amount that you are comfortable spending on each. From there, look-up gifts that fit within that budget range. To make it easy, start online before you head into a store.

Online shops typically allow you to search for items in your specific price range to prevent overspending. Compare prices from a few different vendors and always search for coupons codes and discounts before you make a purchase.

2. Shop Sales

 Depending on your spending habits, Black Friday and Cyber Monday can either help or hurt your budget. Here’s how you can master the massive sales.

First, have a plan and bring your list! Second, make a pact to only buy the specific items you’re looking for – no last minute impulse buys on stocking stuffers or cute shoes just because they still have your size.

Finally, bring a shopping buddy. Black Friday is no joke, so the quicker you can get in and out, the better! Assign gift buying duties and cross each item off of your list once purchased.

3. Don’t Fall for Excessive Card Offers!

If you’re not careful, holiday shopping can potentially ruin more than just your December budget. Overspending and overeagerness  to cash in on those 15% off store cards can really bite you in the mistletoe for months or even years! Here’s what you should know.

If you shop at a store on a regular basis, and if payments are typically not an issue for you, then a store card discount may be beneficial. With that said, going overboard on this practice – or not being responsible with your bills could really hurt your credit. If you only shop there occasionally; or if you have several store cards piled up already – it might be best to just say no.

A 15% or 20% discount could end up costing you more than you may have bargained for if you slip up on your payments – or sign up for too many, too fast. If you’d like to learn more about best credit practices – or if a higher score is on your holiday wish list, click here to access your credit report and score. 

4. Teamwork Makes the Season Work

 All you type-A personalities out there, this one is for you! Even if you love doing it all and taking care of everything, as nice of a gesture as that may be, it’s not so great for your health or your budget.

Instead of taking on every dish and buying an extravagant present for each person on your list; instead, work as a team to dominate the holidays this year. Ask your fellow dinner party members to bring a specific dish or drink to your holiday gathering. This will drastically cut down on cost and prep-time.

If you a have a lot of people to buy for this year, try group gifting or a fun present exchange game to minimize cost and maximize on the fun!

5. Consider Meaning over Price

 Sure, a $100 gift card to someone’s favorite store is great. But do you know what can be even more impactful (and surprisingly far less expensive)? A handmade gift from the heart.

Instead of flooding your holiday celebrations with “stuff,” why not try words, a song, or a meaningful memory? Get an old, forgotten about family photo and refurbish it with a new frame and new look. Write a letter, a poem or even a song about someone for a touching tribute to your relationship.

The meaning behind a gift will go much further than any price tag.