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With the holiday shopping season underway, you may be wondering how you can stay on track toward your financial goals. After all, you’ve either made a lot of progress this year, or you’ve made solid plans to get started in the New Year. Either way, you want to be able to enter into January with a clear conscience and your finances intact.

To help you navigate the season of giving, here are some tips for keeping the holiday cheer alive without sucking your Checking Account dry or maxing out your credit cards.

Decide how much you can afford ahead of time.

You wouldn’t dive into any other major purchase without first establishing what you can afford. So why start your holiday shopping without doing this, too? Before making your way to the store or logging onto your favorite shopping site, sit down and take an honest look at your finances. Decide much can you realistically afford without sacrificing your goals, and set a spending limit.

Once you have a clear idea on how much you can spend, decide how you’ll split that money up. Remember there’s more to consider than gifts. Many families have holiday meals, entertaining and holiday engagements to think about.

Keep track of your spending.

Don’t forget to track each purchase you make, how much you spent and where the money came from. That way you can see if you’re edging too close to your spending allowance too soon. We offer some great tools to help you stay on top of things, including Account Alerts that send you text updates about your account, or FAIRWINDS Goals and Budgets which tracks, categorizes and compares your spending.

Check for the best deal.

Doing your research to get the best price available may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s easy to overlook this crucial step while rushing to get it all done. The good news is, today’s technology is on your side. When you’re out and about, be sure to use a barcode scanner mobile app to help you check for a better price whenever you find the perfect gift. But if you need to buy it online to get the lower price, be sure to calculate shipping into your total cost.

Also, check out the deals offered on Black Friday if you’re willing to brave the crowds, or see what’s available on Cyber Monday.

Set expectations with your family.

If your holiday budget is especially tight this year, it’s important to set the correct expectations with your family ahead of time. That way you can minimize disappointment. It’s ok to tell your kids that the holidays will be a little more sensible this year. In fact, it’s downright smart, because it models responsible spending for your children, and takes some of the pressure off of you. After you get that talk out of the way, shift your focus to the spirit of the season and the notion of celebrating each other’s company.

Get an early start.

One of the best ways to take the pressure off your December paychecks is to spread out your holiday spending. Start your shopping in early November, so you have eight weeks’ to work with. Buy your items little by little. Soon you’ll find you’re less stressed and you’ve avoided adding to your credit card debt, because you spent smartly.

Start new family gifting traditions.

If you have a larger family and you run yourself ragged (and broke) trying to buy gifts for everyone, second cousins and all, then maybe it’s time to give your gifting traditions a 21st Century refresh.

Instead of everyone buying a gift for the whole gang, try a white elephant gift exchange for the grownups. Or, put everyone’s name in a hat. The name you pull is the person you buy a gift for. Not only will you save some time and money, you’ll likely be able to get that one person something much more special. There are lots of alternatives out there. Research some ideas and settle on the one that best suits your family’s situation.

Give back to your community.

You can donate your time to a local non-profit or give them some of the money you saved. Not only will you be offering your support where it’s needed most, you might just walk away with a little perspective on your own situation.