Yes, it’s still October and many of us find it annoying to go to the store and already see Christmas decorations on sale—but it’s not too early to start budgeting for the holiday season. Too often, it sneaks up on us and, without a plan in place, the costs snowball until January rolls around and we assess the damage.

This year, try coming up with a strategy to help you gradually put aside what you need. Not only will you be more mindful of how much you are spending but, by reviewing your projected expenses ahead of time, you might also reevaluate what’s truly important.

Set a Budget

We can get really caught up in the spirit of the season and, before you know it, we’ve purchased pricy jammies that the kids will only wear once and enough ingredients to make way more fruitcake than we’ll ever need—especially since we probably won’t even get around to making one!

Before the end of this month, take some time to really think about how much money you want to spend and where you want to spend it. For example, ask yourself if gifts, hosting a big meal, or traveling is your priority right now. Then, give yourself a specific allowance for everything, breaking it down by category.

How much should you really be spending on stocking stuffers? Should you opt in to that seat upgrade on the crowded (potentially overbooked) flight? Are you giving your child’s teacher a gift? Think of everything before you start spending to keep things manageable.

Bargain Shop Your Wish List

It’s tempting to just wing it and hunt for the perfect gift for the people in your life but it rarely works out that way. We often end up procrastinating and then settling on whatever is left on the shelves in those final days before the holidays.

You can definitely save a few purchases for last-minute but, overall, do your best to make a list of everything you want and need in terms of gifts, travel, and groceries. Make note of how much they cost today and start doing some comparison shopping.

Of course, many people try to score deep discounts on Black Friday but if you really need a specific item, grab it when you see a good price and keep the receipt. You can always return or exchange it, but it’s better to have at a slightly higher sale price than to end up empty-handed.

Factor In Food

Whether it’s endless supplies for sugar cookies, gallons of eggnog, or the traditional trimmings, we really buy and consume a lot of food during the holidays. In the weeks leading up to the holidays, you will start to see sales on staples such as cranberry sauce and chicken broth. Don’t hesitate to slowly build your stockpile.

If every time to go to the grocery store, you grab one or two items you will need during our most gluttonous season, you won’t need much by the time the festive season rolls around. Don’t forget to keep your eyes peeled for coupons for pricier things like spices and butter!

Try Layaway

There was a moment in time when layaway was all the rage and then, suddenly, stores stopped offering it as an option. Recently, it has made a comeback and it can be a valuable option.

Rather than charging the toys, telescopes and cool dorm accessories, fill up your cart and head straight back to layaway where you will be able to slowly pay down the balance without racking up interest.

Best of all, you will have already secured the things you really want. If you find them on sale elsewhere, you can always return them but if your bargain hunting doesn’t pay off, you’ve got a safety net. It’s a win-win!

It might feel a little early to start planning for the holidays but a little preparation can go a long way. Rather than running around trying to make sure you’ve taken care of everything, creating a strategy will help you save money, be better organized and feel more calm during the busiest time of year. Instead of panicking with the masses, you’ll be at home sipping cocoa in your robe on the couch. Definitely worth it!