The holidays are fast approaching, and this can be the most expensive time of the year with buying gifts for family, friends, coworkers, teachers, and more. If you host holiday parties and family gatherings, the price sure can add up! Don’t forget holiday flights and woof, hello credit card debt.

Here are some way you can make the holidays merry and bright without making your budget bloated and tight.

Plan Ahead and Save Big

When it comes to gift purchasing, plan early. Make a list of people you need to shop for and look year round.  At the very least, plan what you need before you go to the mall so you can avoid overspending.

Look for online deals and don’t be afraid to shop around. We recommend following your favorite retailers on social media and browse discount codes.

While cash is king when it comes to shopping, if you must use a credit card, make sure you’re getting cash back. Also, be sure to pay off your card in full next month to avoid unwanted interest.

Group gifts can also be a great way to include everyone without breaking the bank. A fun one to try is a white elephant gift exchange. Host friends or family and tell everyone to bring one gift. At the end of the night, everyone ends up with something–and you don’t have to spend money on each individual.

Hack Your Holiday Dinner

Maybe you host a family dinner Christmas Eve or host the neighborhood holiday party. To avoid overspending, try having a potluck style of dinner where everyone contributes something. Perhaps you offer to cook the main course and everyone else brings a side dish or dessert. Try using a sign up sheet so you don’t end up with duplicate recipes.

If you feel weird about hosting people and asking them to bring something, try finding some easy recipes for large groups. Don’t be afraid to simplify your menu. Your guests are there to spend time together; they don’t need the most extravagant menu in the world. Make sure to take advantage of local supermarket coupons and shop bulk stores like Costco.

Holiday Travel Savings

Once again, we’re back at planning ahead. Buy flights as early as you can. Figure out your travel dates and then shop around. If you can be flexible on flight times–flying a day earlier or later–you can save big. Sometimes looking for flights that have a layover elsewhere first can help. Bonus if you’ve been racking up flight points all year getting your gifts purchased early.

Check out websites that compare a list of cheapest flights. Don’t forget to ship your gifts ahead of time to save on baggage fees. Pack light and choose carry-on luggage whenever you can. You’ll be home for the holidays in no time.

Follow our tips this year to avoid paying for the holidays well after the season has ended.