As the holiday season approaches, so do thoughts of get-togethers with family and friends, festive displays and decorations, and the holiday cheer that fills many with warm sentiment. And then, of course, there is the thought of holiday spending, and how big of a hit your wallet will take this year.

But by sticking to a few simple rules and guidelines, and preparing a bit before starting the shopping, you can save yourself a lot of money as well as a lot of stress.

1. Make a List

Even Santa Claus needs to prepare a list, so why should you skip this important step? Before the holiday shopping season starts, make a list of everyone you plan to give a gift to. Try to remember everyone, such as your boss, your co-workers and your child’s teacher, so that there will be no last-minute surprises.

If possible, write down what you would like to get everyone or at least assign a dollar amount you plan to spend on each person. Now that you have a better idea of how much money you’ll need, you can adjust your budget if necessary and begin putting some cash aside for shopping.

2. Research and Compare Prices

With the Internet at your disposal, you can easily compare prices of items across dozens of retail outlets. Quite often, stores will also announce their future sales early. Also make note of which online stores will be offering free shipping as an incentive. Taking advantage of this can save you not only money but also plenty of time traveling to and from different stores.

3. Make Your Own Gifts

If you consider yourself a bit crafty or a handyman, you may be adept at creating your own gifts for people. Anything from a beautifully wrapped box of baked goods to homemade gourmet olive oils, embroidered scarves, well-built and painted planter boxes, jewelry boxes, and much more can serve as a meaningful and welcome gift when it’s made from the heart.

4. Avoid Using Credit Cards

The ease and convenience of handing a credit card over to a cashier makes it all too easy to overspend. Saving up cash in advance will help eliminate the need for the credit card and save you from a surprise bill at the end of the month.

5. Get Help with Parties

If you’re hosting a holiday dinner or party, why do it all yourself? Ask guests to contribute some fun decorations or bring dishes and desserts that everyone can share. Most people will be happy to contribute.