According to a recent Gallup poll, the average American plans to spend around $790 per holiday season, although many go above and beyond that amount. Starting off the new year in debt is a recipe for stress, which can have negative repercussions for the rest of the year.

In addition to overspending during the holiday season, many people stretch themselves thin on Valentine’s Day, birthdays, and Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. One way to make shopping more manageable is to establish spending limits that dictate how much each family member can spend on each gift he or she buys.

It is important to exercise tact when approaching the subject of gift limits. Discuss the topic with friends and family members with whom you usually exchange gifts long before the holiday season.

Agree on a reasonable amount of money each person will spend on gifts. If necessary, ask everyone to write down a figure and then determine the average, using that figure as your spending limit. Establishing a spending limit makes it easier for every family to afford their holiday purchases.

If there are six people on your shopping list and you’re spending $50 per person, you know to allocate $300 for gifts. Saving and budgeting can be adjusted accordingly. When no such limit is established, you may go overboard to compensate, even if you cannot afford to do so.

Another way to save money is to suggest giving the gift of experiences rather than tangible and potentially costly gifts. For example, take a loved one out for dinner or suggest going on vacation together to make better use of your collective funds.

A well-timed extended family vacation in lieu of gift exchanges may alleviate the stress of the holiday season, much of which can be traced to holiday spending.

Establishing a gift-giving strategy and budget for each person to work with can make for a more peaceful holiday season by freeing up time to spend with loved ones and placing the focus on family instead of shopping.

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