It’s that magical time of year when stores, shopping malls and downtowns glitter with twinkling lights and pretty displays. It’s easy to get caught up in the festive mood and spend more than you intended. What’s a shopper to do? Consider these strategies:
Put your pen to paper before you shop. Determine the total amount of money that you will spend on gifts this holiday season. Write a list of everyone to whom you plan to give a gift and how much you will spend on each person. Is the total more than you have to spend?  Go back and cull the list.  Can you eliminate some people? Make gifts? Give a gift certificate for a service you will do? Re-gift an item? Once you have your final budget, refer to it whenever you shop, both on-line and in stores.
Avoid the crowds. It is easier to compare prices and make better spending decisions when fewer people are in the stores. Avoid the buying frenzy and shop during the week when most everyone else is at work.  You will feel less stress and less pressure to buy things you will later regret.
Pay with cash.  People who use credit cards spend more on holiday gifts than those who pay cash, according to Consumer Reports. When you pay with plastic, you lose track of how much you are really spending. Leave the credit cards at home. If you must have plastic, purchase a pre-paid debit card or store gift cards ahead of time.
Use these strategies to avoid the stress of overspending and put more joy into your holidays. Remember that it’s not the amount of money that you spend that matters. It’s the thought behind your gift that does. When my sister was in nursing school she didn’t have a lot of money. She gave me pre-cooked dinners that I could keep in my freezer. Those meals were some of the best gifts I have ever received, especially on weeknights when I was stressed, tired and had no time to cook.