Sticking to a holiday budget—you can do it.

Do the holidays usually take you—and your budget—by surprise? By making a solid plan and sticking to it, you can have a happy holiday season without suffering a financial hangover. Here are some tips on keeping holiday spending under control.

First, decide on a budget. One way to do this is by reviewing your receipts and bills from last year to remind you how much you actually spent and how long it took to pay for it all.

Make lists. Holiday spending is usually more than just buying gifts. It also can include travel, decorations and food. After setting a budget, make a list of everyone you plan to buy for and the maximum you will spend on each. Avoid impulse shopping or buying something for yourself. Make lists of other holiday expenses, too, including:

  • All festivities for which you’ll need to buy food and drink, e.g., office party, Christmas Eve dinner and New Year’s Eve celebrations.
  • Travel expenses, including airfare, gas, lodging, meals, airport parking, pet-boarding, etc.
  • Holiday cards and postage.

Shop for bargains once you have a solid checklist. Shopping apps and browser extensions can help you find the best deals. A variety of apps and plug-ins—such as Honey, ShopSavvy and Hooper—can help you find deals and book affordable travel. Buying multiple items from the same online retailer? Buy them at the same time to cut down on shipping costs.

Limit your credit card usage. Use only the credit cards that you know you can manage the budget for, i.e., pay off quickly. When the bills come, examine your statements for any unauthorized charges and report any suspicious charges immediately to your financial institution or credit card company. If you must use a credit card, use one that offers a cash-back bonus—some offer up to five percent cash back on purchases. Online shoppers also can earn cash back from sites like Ebates and BeFrugal.

If you’ve never established a budget and made a careful plan for the holidays, try it. You’ll find it’s not that hard and, in fact, you may enjoy the benefits so much you’ll make it a new holiday tradition.

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