The secret behind any successful budget is planning ahead and sticking to it. At no time is that more important than during the holiday season.

Holiday costs can add up quickly. As a young professional, I live month to month, so I have to save up for the holidays and plan my spending ahead of time. Or I will overspend.

Here are four key tips for making and sticking to your holiday budget:

 

Lists are your friend.

Take the time to make thorough lists. I always spend a few hours writing out who I want to buy gifts for. Next, I go through the list of names and decide how much I would like to spend on each of their gifts. Then, I write gift ideas for each person.

 

Shop around and take your time.

Shop around for each gift. I usually check a few different online stores before ordering any gifts. Especially for out of town family members, I like to order online because it is convenient, and by having things shipped to them, I save on shipping costs. It’s the quick and easy way to get Christmas shopping done.

 

Travel smartly (and cheaply).

Take the mediocre flight time. If you are needing to travel this holiday season, especially if you are traveling alone, consider taking the super early or late flight. You can usually get cheaper tickets for less desirable times or flying mid-week. Also, early morning flights are less likely to be delayed.

If you can wait until Christmas day to travel, you might find even cheaper tickets. I’ve had family fly in late on Christmas Day before, and we celebrated the holiday the next day. If it’s an option for you, I recommend considering it, as it can save hundreds in plane tickets.

 

Remember that time is the greatest gift.

It’s corny but true: There is value in simply spending time with loved ones versus spending money on them. So a nice holiday season doesn’t have to drain your bank account. Make a budget, stick to it, and have a wonderful holiday season!