The holidays are a time of togetherness, giving thanks and celebrating another turn around the sun, but they can also signal a season of major spending. Even if you have been cutting back all year to prepare for holiday shopping, the spending can spiral fast if you don’t come equipped with a budget and a clear plan.

The start of November is a fine time to begin setting a holiday spending budget and putting extra cash aside for holiday expenses. After all, you’ll want gift giving to be a joyful experience that doesn’t overextend you or derail your long term financial goals. If you start with a solid plan, research sales, cut back where you can and even share the cost in certain cases, you truly can save and spend within your budget this holiday season.

Here are simple tips to help you spend within your budget this holiday season.

Start Cutting Back Now
No matter where you are in the year, begin cutting back and stocking some savings away now. Earmark this money as your holiday spending account, and use your budget to help you determine how much you need to set aside. If you know that holidays bring on massive spending in your family, you may want to start saving the entire year before. If holidays are simple and low key, a month or two in advance will be all you need.

Set a Holiday Spending Budget
To really save for the holidays, you’ll need a budget. Begin by calculating how much money you can truly save or set aside for holiday spending, and then decide how you’ll save it, what you’ll use it for and how you’ll replenish it after the holidays pass. You’ll want to be realistic about your income and expenses – it may be a year when you can only save but so much, or you may be prioritizing other upcoming expenses. Be honest with yourself and get the numbers on the page in black and white to set yourself up for savings success.

Shop Early
Don’t wait until the third week of December to begin shopping. Start early, spread out your spending and you’ll have more time to shop sales, research bargains and get the best price possible. If you have a big family, starting early will be key to your getting your gifts in time. It also frees you up to start enjoying the best part of the holidays – your loved ones – rather than agonizing over last minute shopping trips.

Research Sales
Take your time to research sales on major purchases. You may find that you can save hundreds of dollars by purchasing an item on Cyber Monday or before the holidays kick into full gear. Check prices online, visit stores to see items in person and wait to make sure you’ve scored a deal you can celebrate.

Share the Cost
If money is tight this year, ask family members to go in together on gift giving. Adult children can go in on one big gift for mom and dad, or grandparents can pitch in to help you purchase big ticket items for your little ones. Share the cost with other family members to get more bang for your buck and to make gift giving a family affair.

Stick to Your Plan
Whatever you do, be sure to stick to your plan and stay on budget. There’s nothing worse than waking up in a new year with an insurmountable credit card bill and debt that you’ll struggle all year to pay off. Give yourself the gift of prudent holiday spending that fits into your life and matches your own financial needs and goals.