It’s the same every year: you have grand plans to complete all your holiday shopping weeks in advance so you can enjoy the season.

Then you notice that you have a mere 12 hours before said momentous occasion; your budget flies out of the proverbial window as you scramble to buy something–anything–before the stores shut their doors.

One credit card statement later, you vow to never repeat the process.

The next year, however… No. Wait. This year is different.

This year, you’re ready to manage your money–along with your stress levels–with these three tips:

  1. People Planning
    Before you think about all of the people for whom you need to buy gifts, figure out the total amount you can actually spend.  If you have more people than money, start cutting your list.  Do you have a large family?  Split the cost of that perfect-for-mom silver platter with a sibling.  Alternatively, gather the family together to pick names from a hat and buy a present for one person only.
  2. Excellent Experiences
    Forget about spending money; focus on spending time with your family and friends.  Check your local newspaper or neighborhood Facebook account for free events in your community.  Once you’ve reached a certain age, material goods seem less important than thoughtful handmade goods and services.  Bake extra cookies and package them in an eco-friendly box.  Send a hand-written letter to an older relative.  Give the gift of services to help the recipient: household organizing; resume writing; babysitting; and gardening may mean more than a book or a sweater.
  3. Curb Kids’ Cravings
    Do your children need the newest electronics, plastic toys, and trendy clothes?  Set expectations within your family to reduce the number of items you buy and instead focus on ways to have fun as a family (see point 2 above!).

Follow these three tips to save time, money, and stress this holiday season.