The holidays are a financial strain on everyone. Between buying presents and throwing parties, it can be a huge drain on your wallet. While most people just throw all the extra expenses on a credit card and figure they’ll worry about it later, that can be an even bigger hit to your finances. It’s smarter to get ahead of the holiday spending season and start putting together your finances now to help combat some of that financial strain.

Get Rid of Last Year’s Holiday Debt

First thing you should do is take care of the holiday debt from last year. If you still have credit card debt from last year, you are still paying too much interest on that debt. If you haven’t tried a balance transfer credit card before, this would be a good time to sign up for one. Many balance transfer credit cards offer a 0% intro APR for up to a year and a half, which means you have that much time to pay down your debt without being charged interest. Here’s a list of the best balance transfer credit cards.

Create a Budget

Many people don’t go into the holidays with a budget, which can allow spending to get out of control. If you know exactly how much you plan to spend over the holidays, you will be less likely to go over your budget, which can save you a ton of money in the end. Set a general outline of how much you are willing to spend on each person you are buying gifts for. Set a budget for your Christmas Eve party. Make sure you are including as much cost as you can in your budget. Once you have a budget set, try your hardest not to exceed any of the numbers you set. It’s too easy to just swipe a credit card when spending for the holidays. Make sure you keep yourself accountable.

Pace Out Your Spending

Too many people go one one big shopping trip and get all their gifts in one trip. This also puts a lot of strain on your credit card all at once. If you want to do a big shopping trip, starting now, put a little money aside each month to buy gifts. Using cash for gifts will alleviate some of the strain on your credit cards at the end of the year. If you are up for it, start buying a few gifts now with the money you are setting aside. While sales are great, buying specific gifts before stores start marking stuff up for the holidays is also a good game plan.

Be Smart about Spending

You don’t have to just use cash on your holiday spending. Use gift cards you got from the year before. If you get a free gift with the purchase of something, use that as a backup gift, in case you forget someone while shopping. And use your credit cards wisely. Many credit cards give cash back rewards for spending within certain categories, like at department stores or online. Use those cards when shopping in those categories and get the most rewards you can earn, which you can use toward your holiday debt come January.

Book Holiday Travel NOW

If you haven’t already booked your airfare or hotel rooms for your holiday travel, book your travel NOW! It’s generally a good idea to book it 6 months in advance, but even booking it now can save you a ton of money as opposed to booking it a month from now. Waiting until the last minute could add hundred of dollars to your airfare or $100+ to your hotel rooms. Miles programs are usually blacked out during the holidays, so make sure you are prepared with cash or credit to pay for your travel, unless you have a card that has no blackout dates.