Keeping your finances in-check around the holidays is no small feat. Everywhere you look, bright sale signs are in your eye-line and the pressure to buy can feel overwhelming. Without a plan in place, the temptation to spend is more likely to take over — putting a strain on your budget for the rest of the year. This potential stress is completely avoidable if you have effective strategies in place. After all, the holiday season should be about spending time with loved ones, rather than stressing over your finances.

Let’s look at the ways you can stay financially responsible during the holidays.

Balancing Your Virtual Budget

Holiday spending should never take away from your everyday expenses. Keeping a balanced budget is important, especially if you have a long list of gifts to buy. Your holiday budget should stand on its own — ideally with funds you’ve been able to accumulate throughout the year. Changing bad spending habits won’t happen overnight, but you can find help.

To help shoppers stay on track, mobile budget apps are becoming the go-to for savvy savers and beginners alike. These apps are designed to teach their users how to become financially responsible at every stage of their earning potential. With a deeper understanding of the most effective saving practices, you can still look to short-term solutions in the form of online payday loans — which are often the go-to for those unexpected expenses — but you’ll also be able to pay down the interest quicker. There are even holiday-themed budget apps available, so you can keep your holiday spending separate from your monthly expenses.

Shop the Sales Strategically

The closer it gets to the holidays, the more sales seem to pop up at every storefront or on our favorite online retailers. The trick is to shop those sales strategically and with purpose. If you go into a store without a plan, you’re likely going to overspend. Coupons are a tried-and-true way to save a few easy dollars — there are often online versions available which saves you the hassle of cutting and storing paper coupons. You’ll be surprised at the retailers that offer savings, and your budget will thank you.

While Boxing Day sales may seem tempting, you’re going to spend additional money on gas and risk the temptation of those impulse products that are strategically placed while you’re waiting in line to pay. Instead, have a list of items or ideas you’re thinking of gifting and wait for an online sale. So long as you aren’t waiting until the last minute, you’ll likely be able to group your gifts into a single purchase which will then save on the cost of shipping — and as a bonus, you’ll avoid those large crowds.

Pay Yourself First

You’ll likely be tempted to treat yourself, especially when those sales roll around. Instead of purchasing something materialistic, consider contributing that money to your investments, particularly your retirement savings account.

When you increase your contributions, you’ll have more money to claim when it comes time to file your taxes. While it may not seem as thrilling as a new pair of shoes or the latest kitchen gadget, you’ll reap the benefits tenfold when it counts.

Spend Time, Not Money

If money feels tight this year, you have more pressing expenses ahead, or you don’t want to risk buying a gift the recipient may not enjoy, suggest spending time together instead. You could have a potluck dinner with friends, channel your inner DIY guru, or spend the day together enjoying the free activities available in your city. Ultimately, you’ll remember who you were with more than the gifts you received — and you’ll both save money. It’s a win-win!