Shopping for the holidays can be a stressful experience, but it doesn’t have to be. Planning ahead can help make sure that you don’t overextend yourself when shopping for loved ones. Marion County Bank recommends following these seven steps.

  1. Make a list. Write down the names of everyone you wish to buy a gift for this holiday season and the items you would like to purchase or the amounts you would like to spend on each one.
  2. Set a budget and stick to it. Decide how much you can afford to spend on gifts for your loved ones this season, and make a pledge to not go over that amount.
  3. Research. Start checking prices on the items you listed in Step 1. Go window shopping at stores and check prices online. Add them all up and compare this amount to the amount you budgeted for in Step 2. If it exceeds the total you want to spend, it’s decision time. Go back to Step 1 and either cut some items off your list or choose less expensive gifts for certain people.
  4. Give your time and talents. Gifts don’t always have to be something you buy from a store. Think of ways to offer your time and talents to loved ones to provide a more personalized gift.
  5. Take advantage of big sale days. The week of Thanksgiving, there are three big shopping days that offer opportunities to hunt down deals. If you don’t mind fighting the crowds, you can save a lot on big-ticket items on Black Friday (Nov. 23). To support local businesses, check out the deals available in Pella on Monday (Nov. 19) at the Tour of Stores or on Small Business Saturday (Nov. 24). 
  6. Use credit wisely. Credit cards are a useful tool to help you get through the high expenses that come with the holidays. Using a cash-back rewards card on holiday purchases, for example, will allow you to essentially earn a rebate on the gifts you buy. It is crucial, however, that you stick to your budget when using credit so you can pay the balance off in a timely manner.
  7. Start saving for next year. The best way to ease expenses on holiday shopping is to save all year long. By designating just $50 per month into a savings account, you will have $600 saved for holiday expenses by the time the next season comes around.

“This time of year, it’s easy to get caught up in the spirit of giving,” said Ryan Vos, Consumer Lender. “By taking the time to plan your holiday purchases, you can make sure that your generosity does not create financial stress for you.”