Gift giving during the holidays can and should be about expressing your gratitude and appreciation for loved ones, but it can often turn into a stressful and expensive annual tradition.  Here are some tips on how to nav. your holiday spending with gift buying on a budget.

Reality

This year, Americans plan to spend, on average, approximately $800 dollars on holiday gifts for friends and family. That’s a lot of money to spend all at once! The holiday season is a time when credit card debt soars.

So instead of reaching for that second (or third) glass of eggnog to help you get through the financial stress of the holidays, here are some strategies to help you stay on budget and spend more thoughtfully:

Set a Budget

In much the same way that you should be budgeting your monthly rent, car insurance, or your weekly grocery bill, try and set an annual budget of how much you can afford to spend on gift giving during the holiday season.

Make a List

There’s a reason that Santa makes his list and checks it twice! Make a list of family, friends and colleagues for whom you will need to purchase gifts.  Include a few gift ideas for each person on your list. A carefully curated list will allow you to stay within your budget. Knowing what you want to buy for each person will allow you to spot sales or look for seasonal deals. For those who don’t make your official gift list- a good old-fashioned handwritten note can be a great way to express your gratitude without breaking the bank.

Shop Early

The importance of shopping early cannot be stressed enough!  Remember that list we talked about? We try and created our list 6 months prior to the holiday season. Crazy right?  If that isn’t feasible for your lifestyle, Thanksgiving is a good marker to start thinking about gifts and looking for deals.

One of the benefits of creating a list well before the holidays is that it allows you spread your shopping out over a few months.  Then when December hits, yay!, you don’t have one gigantic bill at the end of the year.  Early shopping also allows for you to shop more mindfully so that you can not only find that perfect gift, but also purchase it at a time of the year that it may less expensive.

Be Mindful of Shipping

Many of us have friends and family all over the country—and even the world. If you know you will have shipping costs, include those costs in your gift-giving budget.  Another option is to stick to things that can be delivered via email (mainly gift cards) or Amazon prime (if you have it).

Give the gift of your time

They say one human love-language is spending quality time with people you love.  Activities or time spent with someone (treat them to ice cream?) can be a form of gift giving that can show love but doesn’t have to break the bank.

Post Holiday Sales

Take advantage of post-holiday sales such as greeting cards, wrapping paper and any other gift items that may have price reductions after the holiday. Save a small space in a closet or storage area to place gifts you may purchase for the next holiday season so you can refer to it over the course of the year.

Otherwise, enjoy the holidays and remember: showing love and appreciation can come in all shapes and sizes–get creative and Nav.it like the rockstar you are!