Kickstart your holiday budgeting in 4 easy steps.

Before the holiday season takes you by surprise, follow these 4 easy steps.

The holidays are right around the corner. So is the holiday shopping season. While your loved ones may appreciate any gift you give, your finances may not. Here are 4 easy steps you can take now to get out ahead of your holiday budgeting.

1. If you don’t have a budget, draw one up.

It doesn’t have to be fancy. Just look at what you bring in each month and make sure you’ve set aside enough to cover basic expenses (rent/mortgage, food, and transportation, to name a few) and at least a little bit of savings. The leftover money is what you can use for optional expenses (like eating out or going to concerts/shows).

2. Draw up a holiday gift budget.

Depending on the “optional expenses” part of your budget, you can carve out a smaller holiday gift budget to stick to. And if you find you don’t have enough saved up to buy gifts, it’s the thought that counts: carving out special time with friends and family, handmade gifts and other budget-friendly shows of appreciation can go a long way.

3. Beware the discount trap.

Black Friday and Cyber Monday are right around the corner. While these holiday shopping events may present great opportunities to get great gifts at a discount, be careful that you’re not using the idea of discounts as an excuse to spend more than you would normally.

4. Start early.

Start coming up with gift ideas sooner, rather than later. That way, you have more time to find the perfect present for each loved one you’d like to gift. The longer you wait, the more tempted you may be to spend more just to get something “nice.”

The holiday season is exciting, but it can also be stressful. Before it goes by too quickly, make sure you’re prepared so you don’t suffer from a holiday spending hangover in the new year!