By Ashley Walkup, author of the blog Embracing Beauty

Christmas is great for spending time with friends and family, as well as giving gifts. Unfortunately, too many times, though, people don’t properly plan for it and they end up making a list of money mistakes. The key to avoiding a holiday season that leaves your bank account in the red is to start planning early. Here are my top 10 money saving tips to help you steer clear of holiday debt and to get a good financial start to the new year:

Develop a Christmas budget
Keep it separate from your regular budget. Start with how much you have to spend on Christmas gifts and from there list everyone you want to buy for, how much you can spend on them, gift ideas and places to find them. Purpose to only spend the money you have and when it’s gone you stop buying. Millions of Americans are still paying off their credit cards from last Christmas, don’t follow in their steps!

Bring a list
Before you enter the chaos of shopping malls or sit down to shop online, remember to grab your Christmas list and budget. Without these two things you can quickly spend more than you intended.

Take inventory
Check your closet, under your bed or anywhere you might have stashed your early purchases. Try to think back, did you stock up on leather gloves at last year’s post-holiday sales? Check before buying more pairs.

Get cash back
If you’re going to shop for Christmas gifts online, you might as well get some of that money back. I’ve used,, & each for some time and have received several rebate checks.

Bring the envelopes, leave the credit cards
Allocate an amount of money for each gift and put that money into a separate envelope marked with the recipient’s name. Leave your credit cards at home. Did you know that our brains actually feel pain when we spend cash? It’s true! Spending with a check or debit card registers less pain and with a credit card almost no pain. Get creative. There are endless websites that can give you step by step instructions to make yummy desserts, gifts in a jar, or crafts to give your loved ones. Don’t forget to search for free printable gift tags while you’re at it!

Consider drawing names
If you have a large family, or a lot of people at the office to buy for, suggest a name draw. You’d be surprised at how pleasant Christmas can be when you don’t spend a ton of money and end up stressing yourself out trying to find the perfect gift for so many people.

Use social media
Before you begin shopping, start following money saving blogs to find deep discounts to use online and in-store. They’ll keep you in the loop about exclusive online sales, daily deal sites, and printable coupons to take with you to your favorite store.

Avoid the Pseudo-Deal
Avoid the “Buy More, Save More” slogans, the “Buy 2, Get 1 Free” promotions, and the arbitrary limits on purchases. There are numerous other pseudo-deals out there and if you’re not familiar with typical prices on these items, you may fall victim to the pseudo-deal.

Find discount codes.
I never buy anything online without trying to find a discount code first. I’ve literally saved hundreds of dollars and it doesn’t take but a quick minute to find a coupon code. The money saving blogs and cash back websites I mentioned earlier can help provide you with these codes but you can also check out and to search for available discounts.

Last but not least, remember that the spirit of Christmas isn’t about “stuff.” You can have a giving spirit without having a maxed out credit card. Don’t forget the reason for the season!