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THE COUNTDOWN HAS BEGUN! HERE’S HOW TO USE THE NEXT THREE MONTHS TO CREATE A MORE MEANINGFUL, BUDGET-FRIENDLY HOLIDAY.

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If that reality leaves you feeling a mixture of excitement and dread, we have good news: You’re not alone (46% of women and 78% of men think holiday shopping is more stressful than the DMV!) and we have some ideas that can help.

Discuss holiday expectations with your loved ones.

Is your family suffering from “more-i-tis?” Common symptoms include pressure to buy bigger and better presents than last year, feverish murmuring of “must get to store/must check out Amazon” and a willingness to risk hitting your credit limit to buy an incredibly overpriced version of this year’s hot toy on eBay.

We all know money isn’t everything, experiences are what people remember, and that it’s good to teach kids about giving and helping others. But we also know that it’s incredibly easy to get caught up in the hoopla and for all those good intentions to go right out the window.

So, before the annual craziness hits, take a deep breath, make some cocoa and invite the kids and your significant other to sit down and revisit expectations of what you really want the holidays to be like at your house.

Maybe this is a good year to start new traditions. Like picking names among the cousins. Making presents for Grandma and Grandpa. Adopting a family at a homeless shelter. Or maybe the idea of planning a memorable experience instead of a pile of presents. There’s no right or wrong way to celebrate, and it can be fun to push your boundaries of what a “perfect holiday” is.

Set a holiday budget.

Once you’ve established your family’s vision of the holidays, create a budget. Think of the gift expectations you set in the previous step and brainstorm all the expenses you’re likely to run into: everything from traveling costs to wrapping paper, teacher gifts, to higher grocery bills.

Divvy up your spending.

You have roughly three months and six paychecks between now and the holidays. That’s loads of time to plan and prepare! Split up your saving/spending over that period and you’ll be more likely to weather the season without the stress of a huge credit card bill. One bit of warning: keep track of your purchases. That way you’ll know exactly what you already have and how much you’ve spent and be less inclined to buy more than you need. Holiday shopping apps are a great way to track your spending/gifts.

Remember who’s on your shopping list.

You’re looking for the perfect cozy scarf for your mom when you see it: a gorgeous sweater, in your size, now at an amazingly low holiday price. Don’t go there. Maybe someone’s already buying you that sweater! Maybe it will be even cheaper after the holidays. And, hey, you have a budget to stick to! Many of the season’s bargains are likely to be around in the inventory clearance sales of January, and you’ll feel so much better if you stick to your budget now.

Plan now to own your best holidays!