Americans spend an average of $712 per person on holiday gifts.* Those who rely on credit cards and make minimum payments might still be financing this year’s gifts when Christmas 2014 rolls around. Before you get caught in a spending frenzy, try these strategies…

  • Use the envelope system. Decide how much to spend on gifts this season, and withdraw that amount from your bank. Write the name of each recipient on a separate envelope, then divide the cash as you see fit. Bring the envelopes with you when you shop, and stop spending on a recipient once his/her envelope is empty.
    If you would prefer not to carry cash, start with empty envelopes and write each person’s amount below his name. Put the receipt for each gift in the appropriate envelope, and subtract the price from the figure on the front.
  • Think before spending. Ask stores to hold items for you. Return to make a purchase only if it still seems like a good idea after you have slept on it.
  • Get your spouse on the same page. The holidays can be a source of marital strain when one spouse wants to spend and the other wants to save. Come up with a holiday budget that you both can live with.
  • Give yourself a reality check. When chronic overspenders shop for gifts, they tend to do so with visions of loved ones opening presents. Instead, visualize yourself paying the bills. If the gift doesn’t seem worth that pain, put it back.

*According to a 2011 Gallup Poll.

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