budget-friendly holiday seasonBetween all the gift shopping, grocery runs and travel to sunnier beaches and greener pastures, it’s no surprise that the holiday season can be a costly money drainer. In fact, in the U.S., holiday debt is a real problem — last November, the country’s credit card debt rose at the second-fastest pace in a decade. Believe it or not, getting everything that you need to buy for the holidays and not overspending are two things that can still go hand-in-hand. To find out how you can celebrate the holiday season without killing your wallet, keep reading as we explain the ins and outs of having budget-friendly holiday season.

Stick to your shopping list and budget

To realize that budget-friendly holiday season, you’ll have to adhere to your shopping list and budget, budget, budget. After all, if you don’t make a plan, it can be easy to waltz into your local department store with the intention of buying two items and leaving with a cart full of items that you clearly overspent on. For anyone who has done holiday shopping before, you know how tempting it can be to get your hands on all those items for sale, be it from an online website or a brick-and-mortar store. As such, it’s important to avoid this temptation by planning ahead before you start your shopping. Make sure to budget before you go on your shopping adventures (our guide to successful budgeting can give you a head start), and compile a shopping list. Make sure your list not only includes gifts for each person you need to shop for, but that it also notes cooking and baking items or anything else you may need to celebrate the holidays. When you’re at the store, only buy the items on your list and note the prices of each item that you add to your cart. Before you hit the checkout line, tally up your total to make sure you’re on track. If you’re over your budget, determine if you can cut any items or exchange some of the name-brand items for the generic brand, as doing so will often save you a few bucks.

Preparing early is essential

Another way you can have a budget-friendly holiday is to prepare early by researching and comparing discounts and prices ahead of time. By getting a head start, you’ll be able to sift through the flood of holiday discounts to identify the stores and sellers that actually offer you the best buy for your budget and needs. While you may be tempted to participate in big shopping days, the best offers aren’t always given out on the dates that you expect (e.g., Black Friday isn’t always the best time to score a deal). As such, doing your research ahead of time will also help you keep track of costs throughout the season and figure out when it’s actually the best time to buy something.

All this work may feel overwhelming and make Santa’s job seem like a piece of cake, but with the assistance of technology, the research and comparison process can be relatively quick and easy. Nowadays, you can carry out these tasks through your Internet searches or via apps that are designed to assist you with finding the lowest costs and best discounts. That said, you’ll want to make sure you’re practicing safe online shopping practices and not downloading fake apps in the place of legitimate ones.

Have the right credit card

If you’re trying to have a budget-friendly holiday season, you’ll also want to strategize and make sure that you’re equipped with the right credit card for your holiday shopping needs. Having a suitable credit card can make a world of difference when it comes to the rewards you’ll earn on holiday purchases (cash back, miles or points), which can make your holiday purchases even more worthwhile.

For example, if you’re planning to get all of your shopping done on Amazon.com this year, the Discover it Cash Back card is the best option for you. That’s because through Dec. 31, 2018, this card earns 5% cash back on Amazon.com purchases (up to the quarterly maximum, currently $1,500, then it’s 1% back) if you activate the 5% cash back rewards. We should note that the 5% categories rotate quarterly, so you’ll earn rewards on different purchases starting Jan. 1, 2019. That said, Amazon.com is making a reappearance next year during the holiday season as well, so you can count on this perk to continue. What’s more, Discover will match all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year — that’s an effective 10% back on Amazon.com purchases, up to the quarterly maximum, during the last quarter of the year!

On the other hand, if you’re going to be throwing parties or doing any entertaining, you’ll want to make sure you have one of the best credit cards for your grocery haul on hand, since it can help you save big bucks and decrease your overall spend. Or, if you’re dreaming to go out of town after the holiday season, a travel credit card could be the addition you want in your wallet to facilitate your 2019 wanderlust dreams.

As you can see, a credit card can be a great asset to have throughout the holiday season and beyond, but having the right card for your lifestyle and spending habits is even more important. Since this is the season when credit card offers get the most competitive, now’s the perfect time to get a new credit card. To get started on finding the right card for your holiday needs and beyond, check out our credit card reviews.

Don’t be afraid to get assistance

When it comes to the holiday season, one last point to keep in mind is that you don’t have to feel like you need to do everything yourself. In fact, taking care of all the logistics, planning and prepping can drain your energy and amp up the stress on you and your wallet. While you may initially feel a little bad and awkward about letting others pitch in and provide assistance, you don’t have to feel guilty. After all, the holiday season is a time for giving, and it’s good to provide others with the opportunity to also contribute, which can open up the floor to more holiday savings. A good potluck that gives everyone the chance to contribute their favorite food item, for example, can be just as fun and delightful — or even more so — than a traditional feast, and it’ll save you some serious dough on groceries. Another way to cut back on holiday expenses is to ask your family members to participate in a secret Santa gift exchange or white elephant instead of purchasing gifts for everyone. If that’s not something you or your family would like to do, you can have everyone agree on a budget, so you all know no one will be going overboard and you can budget accordingly.

Now that you know more about how you can have a budget-friendly holiday season, learn more about what you can do to keep up your finances and financial health by following our personal finance blog.

Disclaimer: This content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuer. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer. This content was accurate at the time of this post, but card terms and conditions may change at any time. This site may be compensated through the credit card issuer Affiliate Program.