It’s only October but this is a great time to start thinking about your holiday planning. We willingly devote so many of our resources to making this time of year special which speaks volumes about its importance. The downside is that we often enter the new year emotionally, physically and financially exhausted. One way to prevent this burnout is to start planning early. Here are some suggestions to help you lessen the burden.

Examine Your Finances

Are you still paying off gifts from last year?  Are there lingering bills and debt that you haven’t yet addressed?  If so, it’s time for you to take a hard look at the state of your finances and fix any problems that currently exist.

Set a Realistic Budget

Once you’ve examined your finances, you will have a better idea of how much you can reasonably spend.  Be selective about the number of gifts you are giving, especially if you are short on cash. Instead of presents, offer your friends and family your time in the form of babysitting, cleaning or yard work. Above that, factor in the cost of the things you plan to buy as well as the costs associated with holiday meals, travel, entertaining, wrapping paper, holiday cards and activities and stick to a strict budget.

Make a Detailed List

Check your list and check it twice! Jokes aside, making a list will help you think about everything that you need and will give you a chance to make changes, if needed. An added bonus is that these items will be on your radar so that you can keep an eye out for deals and discounts in the weeks leading up to the holiday season.

Bargain Shop

Keep an eye out for deals on Black Friday and Cyber Monday.  This is especially good if you don’t have your heart set on a specific item. You could spot an unexpectedly perfect gift at a great price.  Sign up for mailing lists that leak sale details ahead of time so that you can plan your attack. Some of these sites even have apps that you can use to not only track the sales but may also allow you to make purchases.

Check Out Layaway

There’s nothing wrong with layaway.  In fact, it’s a really great way to be able to secure the things you really want and need while paying it off over several weeks. You can usually set up a layaway plan with little to no money down. This is a great alternative for those who, either do not own credits cards, or prefer not to use them in order to avoid high interest rates.

Sell Unused Items

Almost all of us have things around the house that we are no longer using. Go through your possessions and see if there are any gently used items that could be sold for some extra money. In addition to the typical furniture and clothing, consider selling old video game consoles if you are planning to upgrade to the newest models. Put any money you earn aside for your holiday fund.

It’s entirely possible to get through the festive season without breaking the bank. By determining priorities and setting a budget, you can help ensure that this special time is memorable for all the right reasons.