The pressures of holiday shopping can be very difficult, especially if you’re dealing with a limited budget and a big family. When you factor in all the added expenses of the season, including the big family meals, the travel expenses and all the gifts to buy, the month of December can really put a big dent in your pocketbook. If you shop smart and do a little bit of planning ahead of time, you can still manage to create a great holiday for everyone, without totally breaking the bank. Here are a few tips to help you save money this holiday season.

Related: 5 Best New Apps For 2015 Holiday Shopping

Make A List

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Make your shopping list and check it twice. Early on, write down everyone you’re shopping for and what you want to get them, and then put a budget on each gift. As you hit the stores, make sure you stick to that list and that budget. If you’ve got your eye on a certain sweater for your mom, but it’s outside of your target budget, then look for something else. Don’t be tempted to spend more. Instead, be cautious and stick to your list and budget. Your family and friends will love the gifts you give and you won’t have the headache of trying to figure out how to pay your bills in January.

Black Friday

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If you plan to hit the stores the day after Thanksgiving, you’ll probably wander in to some truly incredible sales. Just make sure you spend the time to plan your Black Friday attack. Go through all the mailers and advertisements so you can find out where the best sales are, and be willing to divide and conquer when it comes to hitting the stores. Send one family member to one store while you hit another, so you can maximize your reach. Just be sure you really want the gifts you find, and that you aren’t getting lured by the promise of a great deal. Otherwise, you’ll end up spending money on something you never wanted in the first place.

Related: 5 Hottest Gadgets For 2015 Holiday Gifts

Listen And Inquire

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Sometimes the best gifts are the ones that don’t cost a ton of money. While you may be tempted to go out to purchase something extravagant to win over your new mother-in-law, chances are she just had her eye on that new coffee pot that cost only $20. Instead of guessing or trying to go big, just ask what your intended recipients want. Or at least listen to them and write down clues the month or two before the big holiday. Then you’ll have a much better idea of what to get without going on a major spending spree.

Secret Santa

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If you’ve got a big family or lots of friends to buy gifts for, then sometimes that shopping list can be pretty intimidating. You can save a lot of money and ensure that everyone in your family gets what they want by going with a Secret Santa gift exchange. Sure, you’ll end up with one gift instead of several, but everyone will get something special and you won’t have to worry about buying 15 expensive gifts. Keep the gift exchange secret to really have fun with it and you can even give clues during your holiday dinner and make a game out of figuring out who your Secret Santa was.

Shop Online

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These days, shopping online can be a huge money saver. Start your shopping with Cyber Monday, which is the Monday following Thanksgiving. All the big online retailers start out their seasons with huge savings and lots of deals. Most will even offer free shipping, so you’ll truly get the best value for every gift you buy. Plus you get to do all that shopping in your pajamas, you don’t have to pay for parking, you won’t have pushy people surrounding you and the whole experience will be much more fun and less stressful for you this holiday season.

Deborah Flomberg is a theater professional, freelance writer and Denver native. Her work can be found at