This is a guest post from Andrea of Smart Money Chicks.

We all know the stress that comes with the territory of holiday planning and the best way that you can remove the stress, is to get started in your planning early. Starting to formulate your plans for the holidays now can help ensure that the Christmas Season will be a much more enjoyable experience for both you and your family.

Christmas doesn't have to mean big bills and debt. Check out this post for practical tips on how to make and stick to your Christmas budget.

By starting now, you’ll be able to really get some great deals and promotions as they are being presented.

Here are a few tips to help get you started:

Create your budget ahead of time. Making your solid spending plan now, you can drop the anchor for a stress-free and debt free Christmas. To create your budget, you need to look at your current finances and see where they stand.  Once you have an idea of your current financial state and what money you expect to come in, you will get an idea of how much you can actually afford to spend without having a scary credit card bill.

It is important that you are honest with yourself about how much you can safely spend because this budget has to carry you through the holidays into the New Year. While working on your budget, you need to think about everything that is centered on the holiday season which includes: gift giving, entertainment, food, travel and anything else that you participate in during the holiday season.

Make your gift list. In your list, you need to include everyone to whom you plan to give a gift. Making this list will tell you if your gift giving budget is realistic. As you make your way down your list, set a budget for each gift on your list. You may have to trim a few people or gifts off this list if it will put you in a bind.

There is no shame in not being able to afford a large amount for gifts and there are plenty of alternatives such as making gifts. Another thing to consider is that your friends and family may also want to have a lighter load.

Get started on your shopping now.  Or at least start keeping an eye out for savings. Many stores start their sales early and this will give you the opportunity to start your shopping now with a plan. It also gives you ample time to find the gift that is perfect for your budget.  Use this handy printable to help you compare sale prices and discounts to get the best possible deal.

Lastly, we don’t want to leave out parties.  A large part of Christmas is the get-togethers with both family and friends. However, it also can cause chaos for your budget. So plan ahead and adjust your budget accordingly.

These tips should help you put in place your holiday strategy in the next few weeks.  Trust us, having the financial part of this laid out beforehand will allow you to enjoy yourself without having to rush around at the very last minute and it will reduce stress.

Here is to a relaxing and memorable holiday season with family and friends.

Andrea is the Chief Chick of Smart Money Chicks. After filing bankruptcy twice (once because she panicked and the second time because the pro messed the first one up. She realized that it all could have been avoided if she understood more about how money worked and the options available to her.

Related post: Maintaining Your Sanity During the Holidays

Christmas Budget 1