By Alan Prahl

Holiday gift-giving can be a joyous time, especially when we give gifts that delight the recipient without breaking the budget.

Here are some holiday shopping tips to keep spending under control:

Set a limit on the total amount of money you want to spend and then allocate that total among these three categories:

  • Gifts
  • Special meals, food and beverages
  • Decorations, cards, wrapping paper and postage/shipping

If your total Christmas budget is $900, for example, you might allocate $700 to gifts, $100 food and beverages and $100 to decorations, wrapping and postage.

Set a spending limit on each person or gift. If you are buying clothes, write down the sizes, so you minimize post-holiday gift returns.

Shop smart

  • If you don’t like fighting crowds, avoid peak shopping hours.
  • Comparison shop before you buy.
  • Keep your shopping list with you. Cross off gifts or names as you work through your list. Be ready to substitute gifts.
  • Try using cash for your bricks-and-mortar shopping, saving your credit cards for online shopping. Many people make better shopping choices and can stick to a budget more effectively when they carry and use cash.
  • Set firm limits for your credit card spending and stick to them. Write down every credit card purchase so you know how much you are spending and can avoid those ugly credit card bills in January.
  • When giving gifts among friends or family, talk with your friends and family before the holidays. Set comfortable spending limits on gifts for each other so that gift-giving is not a burden for anyone.