Holiday planning in April? It seems like we just got our tax refunds back to pay off the credit cards from Christmas. But if you think about it, having a 7 month head start isn't a bad planning idea.
This article is a guest post by reader David Brown.

Financial chaos always accompanies the holidays. It’s time for fabulous parties, endless gifts and traveling. Are you sure that you have got enough bucks to spend a small fortune? If not then holidays can be a menace rather than fun. However, you cannot say no to such occasions. It will certainly make you feel even meaner. So what on earth is the solution? Well, lean times demand prudent ways to celebrate. So it’s time for frugal holidays. Read the following tips to enjoy your holidays in a wise manner:
·       Be organized. Take a look at your monetary situation and set a budget. Some experts recommend spending no more than 1%-2% of your annual income on the holidays. However, there are no rigid rules. So set a budget that suits you and make sure that you stick to it.

·       Prepare a list of things you plan to spend money on. Calculate the total expenses. Is it significantly more than what you plan to spend? If yes then it’s time make your list shorter. Start cutting items, people and plans out until you strike a balance between fun and finance. If you decide to throw parties then keep them simple and narrow down the guest list.

·       Do you think that the most expensive gift is the best one? Think again. Talk to your loved ones and try to understand what they love. Spend accordingly. In the process you will learn two very important things: Cheaper things are sometimes more appealing than you imagined and you have saved some hard earned money by buying them instead of costly gifts.

·       Don’t rush to the shops at the very last minute. You may end up buying any expensive item that comes your way. So start shopping early, visit multiple stores and get yourself the best deal.

·       Always look for discounts while shopping. For instance try buying gifts during sales or visit shops after major holidays to get off-season discounts. Internet is also a great place to find discount offers.

·       You can save a quite a bit of money by giving homemade gifts like cakes, cookies etc. Apart from saving you some money such gifts have a nice personal touch which makes them special.

·       Avoid using credit cards or at least use them occasionally. Unwise use of credit cards can lead to debts and worse things like debt consolidation and debt settlement. You certainly don’t want to negotiate debt with your creditor right after the holidays.

·       Don’t spend much on decorations. Remember that the decors will be there for a few days only. Try to make homemade decors and if possible reuse them next year.

·       If you are planning for a trip then start looking for bargains. Internet can help you in tracking great deals. During the trip avoid being extravagant. For example you don’t need a fancy dinner. Look for a nice place to get together instead.

It’s tempting to succumb to the expensive pleasures that the holidays offer to us. But it can be a leak that can sink your ship. So enjoy your holidays but in a sensible manner. Remember that in tough times frugal is not cheap, it is wise.

David Brown is a content writer with Oak view law group. He writes on finance related topics.

*photo via cc courtesy of aresauburn™