Over the last few years, people have become more interested in learning how to save money. Times have been tough and everyone seems to be reevaluating the importance of material things.

Still, it’s understandable that most of us still want to be festive during the holiday season while simultaneously hoping we can still afford to pay our bills in January!  Here are some basic tips for maintaining a healthy bank account through this pricey holiday season.

Ask Yourself: Why Am I Buying This?

Maybe you walked past a display case filled the most adorable dolls, or perhaps you want to buy the latest video game console because you feel you owe it to your child since you haven’t been around as much lately. Unless you have a good reason for spending money on a gift, don’t buy it. Give it a couple of days and if you still really want to get it, make a plan for how you will afford it. If you’re feeling guilty for being more absent than usual, give your child what he or she really needs – you!

Keep Track of Your Spending

Out of sight, out of mind, right?  Wrong!  We’ve all done it. We go to the mall to grab one thing and end up coming home with bags of useless stuff. Debit and credit cards make it so easy to drop a bunch of money without having to think about the consequences. Make a point of going home and immediately reviewing how much you have spent and then decide if you can afford it or if you need to take something back.

Don’t Use Your Credit Card

Using your credit card during the holidays is not usually a good idea.  You will spend more than you have and then you will pay interest on your purchases.  Consider shopping with only cash so you have a clear budget in mind. If you absolutely must use your credit card, try to take advantages of promotions that will give you reward points.

Secret Santa Gift Exchanges

If you have a larger family, why not try the Secret Santa approach (or one of these frugal gift exchange ideas)? Let everyone pick a name out of a hat and buy one present for that one person. That way, everyone gets a gift without having to break the bank.

Get Creative

Get in touch with your creative side and make something as a gift.  The sky really is the limit since it could range from a scrapbook of cherished memories to a handmade book of coupons that can be redeemed in exchange for completed chores.  Your gift doesn’t have to cost a lot in order to mean a lot.

Factor in Shipping Costs

If you decide to take advantage of online shopping, keep in mind that some websites will charge you a hefty sum for shipping. If delivery costs are unavoidable, be sure to factor them into your budget. If not, you can try searching for sites that offer free shipping.

Throw a Potluck Holiday Meal

It can be really expensive to plan a big holiday meal so, instead of taking on all of the responsibility, make it a potluck and have everyone bring a little something. If your sister makes the best stuffing and your dad’s dinner rolls are out-of-this-world, your guest will enjoy the variety while the chefs bask in all of the praise.

The bottom line is that, so many of the things we buy as gifts end up forgotten within a couple of weeks. Instead of focusing on spending money, devote your time to creating memories that will last for years to come.