As the holiday season approaches, there are plenty of opportunities for spending. Whether you participated in Black Friday shopping or Cyber Monday ordering, consider the following tips to help you plan ahead, shop smart and stay on budget.

1. Set a budget. Decide how much money you are going to be able to spend this holiday season. Don’t forget to include items such as gifts, decorations, cards and postage, travel and extra food when establishing your budget. Set a reasonable budget that will not accrue debt.

2. Create a list with names, gift ideas and price estimates. Write down gift ideas for each person next to their names. If unsure of a specific gift for someone, write down a dollar limit and stay within that range when shopping for them. Holiday shopping lists can also help save time and money by avoiding extra trips to the store and preventing spending on impulse purchases.

3. Get creative. Homemade gifts such as baked goods, crafts and photo items are extra special and enjoyed by many. Giving coupons for services such as house work, raking leaves, shoveling snow or taking someone shopping can also be a great gift idea.

4. Save money on holiday cards. Think about sending electronic greeting cards via email. There are many websites that offer a wide variety of free holiday cards that can be sent by email.

5. Compare prices. Shop around to find the lowest price for items you plan to buy. Prices on items can vary from store to store and merchants will have sales at different times. Check out prices online and in advertisements. Of course, this all takes planning and cannot be completed the week before exchanging gifts. Bring ads with you when shopping, as some merchants offer price-matching polices.

6. Consider shopping online. If you decide to buy from an online merchant, keep shipping costs and delivery time in mind. Make sure the website is secure.

7. Plan a payment method. Whenever possible, use cash or your debit card. This will help in sticking to a budget. Avoid using credit cards.

8. Ask about refund and return policies. Many merchants may have different refund and return policies for sale items. For example, clearance merchandise may be on final sale, meaning no refunds or exchanges.

9. Keep your receipts. When doing your holiday shopping, it is a good idea to keep all receipts for the purchases that you make. If you remove the price tag, keep it with the receipt in case the gift has to be exchanged or returned. Saving your receipts can also assist you when tracking holiday expenses.

Each year, we have the opportunity to make wise choices in regard to our finances, especially during a season when expenditures are high. Do not allow your impulse shopping to negatively affect your bank account’s health. Make a list, stick to the budget and do not sacrifice normal expenses for an extra present. Plan for extra costs, too, like holiday meals or a box of chocolates for your uncle you forgot to buy for again.

For questions on this topic or others, stop by the K-State Research and Extension – Leavenworth County office at 613 Holiday Plaza in Lansing or call at 913-364-5700.

Chelsi Myer is a family and consumer sciences agent for K-State Research and Extension – Leavenworth County.