The holidays are our favorite time of year. It's okay to eat whatever you want, put off annoying tasks until after the New Year, and punch out early. It's also the time where we put our paychecks to good use at the department stores and online buying gifts for ourselves, our friends and family. But binge-shopping, while exhilarating, can leave you with a shocking bill at the end of the month. Here are some tips for keeping your holiday shopping in check this season.

1. Go in knowing exactly what you want.

If you're going into a department store a complete blank slate, not only will you spend a lot of extra time traipsing around, but you'll likely get off track from where you need to be. It's like if you're going food shopping and have no idea what you need. If you're like me, you'll come home with twelve tubs of ice cream and no orange juice. Discipline is the key.

2. Give yourself a time limit.

Go early, before the crowds set in. Give yourself no more than two hours to get everything you need. If you have followed rule one, that will be more than enough time. If you need to, set an alarm, and if you don't get everything by when time is up, too bad. You'll have to make a gift (see rule four).

3. Set your budget, and respect it.

There will be no surprises if you go into a store knowing your set budget and sticking to it. It helps to look up the prices of things you want to get beforehand, then find the cheapest place to buy. Often, it's better to just get everything online. You can find some great holiday deals and you don't even have to leave the house!

4. You don't need to get a fancy gift for your third cousin twice removed.

We know you're generous, but that doesn't mean you have to give gifts to everyone. In fact, what's even better is a handmade gift. Instead of diamond earrings, pick up a canvas and some paints from the craft store and paint a portrait. Or if you're less artistically inclined, give a clever I.O.U. Here are some other great gift ideas on a budget!

'Tis (nearly) the season to stay out of debt. Be sensible about your gifts, everyone.

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