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With the holiday season around the corner, you might be hoping to better manage your spending this year. How many of us have spent more than we could afford on gifts or paid a premium for holiday travel because we waited too long to book tickets?

This year, vow to start planning earlier and keep spending under control. Here are a few ways to get ahead of holiday spending.

Create a Budget

Prepare a realistic estimate of how much of your discretionary income — what's left after covering your regular bills and contributing to savings — you can afford to devote to holiday expenses. Consider including categories like gifts, food, travel, and decorations in your budget.

Once you've decided on an overall holiday spending limit, you can start thinking about ideas for everyone on your gift list and how much you'd like to spend on each person. When you hit on what seems like the perfect item, compare prices to find the best deal.

Start Saving Up

Use the time leading up to the holidays to pad your cash reserves. Consider opening a holiday savings account, or enroll in a program like KeyBank's EasyUp, which transfers $1 to your savings account with each debit card purchase you make.

You can also save up for the holidays by using a cashback credit card, which credits a small percentage of each purchase back to your account. You may get an additional financial reward if you spend a certain amount within the first 60 days of opening the account.

Find the Best Deals on Gifts

Instead of waiting for all of the good stuff to be picked over in the madness of the holiday rush, start shopping early so you can take advantage of earlier sales and avoid the stress. Keep your list of gift recipients and ideas handy so that you'll be ready when you spot a good deal.

On the other hand, if you're planning to buy items that tend to go on deep discount later in the year — like camping gear in October or specific video games in November — you may want to hold off until then.

Plan your Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday shopping strategically so you're focused on finding a few great bargains instead of trying to check off your entire list at once. Check out price comparison sites, use smartphone apps, and follow retailers' social media accounts to find the best deals.

Plan Ahead for Holiday Travel

Timing is everything when it comes to managing holiday spending on travel. You can generally get the best savings on Christmastime air travel if you book between October and mid-November. If you're planning a destination New Year's celebration, you'll save the most by booking your flight by early November. And don't forget to look for opportunities to apply credit card cash back dollars to travel and lodging.

The day you take your holiday trip can make a huge difference in how much you pay. The Friday before Christmas, for instance, is said to be the most expensive day for a holiday flight. Being flexible about your schedule can help you score a cheaper fare.

Take steps now to manage your holiday spending. Then, when the holidays arrive, you can focus less on finances and more on what truly matters: enjoying quality time with your loved ones.

This information and recommendations contained herein is compiled from sources deemed reliable, but is not represented to be accurate or complete. In providing this information, neither KeyBank nor its affiliates are acting as your agent or is offering any tax, accounting, or legal advice.

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