UNITED STATES—Well that time of year has dawned upon us, and for many of us it places us in a spending frenzy that we soon wish we never divulged in. Christmas is that one time of year where the heart grows big and the need to do sometimes places us in financial ruins.

I’ll be the first to admit that I love Christmas; it’s the time of year that puts the gleeful smile on my face, I love nothing more than to see people smile with the gifts that they receive from me. I’ve always been an avid believer that it is better to give than to receive. We all have people to purchase gifts for, but it’s imperative that you stick to a budget. Remember it’s not about the price of the gift, but the thought of it.

So what can you do to prevent yourself from going into further debt that may be difficult to climb out of? For starters make a list of the people that you are planning to get gifts for. By making that list it becomes clear of those who you plan to buy gifts for. Don’t feel pressured to purchase gifts for every single person you know in your life. Sometimes you just can’t do it, and if people in your circle fail to realize that, it’s not much you can do. Don’t beat yourself up over it!

Next, try to utilize cash instead of credit. Why? Well credit puts many of us in that position where we suspect we have unlimited funds that we do not. Before you know it, the plan to spend only $200 quickly shifts to $800 and you find yourself questioning just how in the world you plan to pay it back. It’s easier said than done in most situations. To make matters worse, that interest on most of those credit cards just simply climbs to a point where you feel like it takes years if not decades to pay off.

When you pay for things with cash, you don’t have to run into that issue of rather you can afford something or if you can’t. If you don’t have the cash for it, it’s an item that you simply have to put back and wait till the funds come into play. I’m starting to realize after more than 15 plus years of having credit cards is that they can easily get you into a ton of trouble if you are not careful. Remember a credit card is NOT your money, it’s the banks money, and in due time you have to pay them back, rather you want to or not.

When it comes to gift buying try to think outside of the box, be creative. Sometimes not overanalyzing what someone will or will not like makes all the difference. There are those people who you can purchase a set of gloves and a scarf for and they’ll be happy. For those who tend to frown upon or are difficult to buy for, perhaps consider skipping them from the list.

There is no NEED to stress yourself out on something so silly and trivial, especially if you’re dealing with an adult. Adults can actually be worse than kids when it comes to Christmas gifts. Teach them a lesson and scratch them off your list one year and I bet they’ll shape up that attitude a lot quicker than you expected. Never allow someone to take your generosity for stupidity, trust me if you allow it they will.

Once you have a set budget in place, and a list of all the people you plan to buy for (with cash), then map out the stores you want to hit. Remember, there is NOTHING wrong with shopping on a budget and utilizing coupons to maximize your savings and keep extra money in your pocket. If you spot a place having a sale on a CD or movie that you plan to purchase as a gift, go to that place instead somewhere that may charge an additional $5-$10. Why?

That is extra money that can be used on another gift or placed back into your wallet or purse for a later date. Many frown upon a $1-$2 savings, but the dollars add up and that can be used later down the road for bills that are certain to come rolling in for the month of January and February. Yeah, January is the worse, because we find ourselves aloof to just HOW MUCH money we spent over the holidays.

Remember, you can only do what you can afford to do. Don’t feel ashamed or beat yourself up when your budget doesn’t allow for those extra expensive gifts. I’d rather be content with staying within my budget than having to be stressed and worried about how I’m going to pay off a boatload of debt I accrued.