Starting before Black Friday even came around, we’ve been getting inundated with ads and “deals”. We’re encouraged to shop, shop, shop at every turn.

We’re told that in order to show someone we love them, we have to buy them expensive things. And the truth is, this messaging hurts a lot of us.

In fact, about a quarter of Americans end up in debt, or deeper in debt, due to holiday spending.

That doesn’t sound worth it to me.

Don’t let yourself go into debt or sacrifice your own needs just to show your love through gift-giving. Use the tips below to keep your goals and needs in focus this year.

Keep Your Goals Top of Mind

I think it’s always helpful to keep your financial goals top of mind.

That’s how you can stay motivated and not forget what you’re working towards. And that’s still true around holiday season when you’re being pressured to spend all your money on others.

So ask yourself: What are your financial goals? What are your life goals? And what are the goals that combine the two? Keeping those goals top of mind and in front of you is a really good way to make sure that you’re continuing to work towards them.

One way to do that would be to visualize your goals in some way.

I have more than one client who has created vision boards that really visualize and outline the different goals that they’re trying to reach.

Whether you’re saving up for travel or you want to have enough money for general wellness or paying down debt, or just generally being able to do the things you want to do, it’s good to see those things visualized. If you’re not into vision boarding and being crafty, there are other ways that you can keep your goals top of mind.

Having a photo of the thing that you’re trying to achieve, whether it’s your dream home or your dream vacation or your dream car, or just being debt-free.

Make a List of Gift Receivers

You do not have to give gifts to every single person that you know. You don’t even have to give guests to every single person in your family.

In my family, my mother has five sisters and all of them have husbands, all of them have one to five children and now some of my cousins have started having their own children.

So there are a lot of people and from the earliest of that, I could ever remember, we each pull a name out of a hat.

And that is the person that we’re responsible for getting a gift for. It really cuts down on the cost and the stress around making someone feel special.

Each person is responsible for one other person. And so that’s something that has worked really well for my family and it could work really well for your family. It could also work really well with your friend group.

If pulling one name isn’t necessarily going to work for you, make a list of those people that you actually want to give gifts to.

And then stick to that list. Try not to let the guilt and the pressure get to you and encourage you to buy gifts for the other people that maybe you didn’t really want to in the first place.

So make that list and keep it with you. I will often make a list in a notebook and write what I want to get for each person.

That helps me actually stick to that and remember what I’ve already purchased for who and what I’m planning to purchase for somebody else.

And that’s really helpful not only in keeping that spending in check but also in just keeping me on track so that I’m not getting too stressed out.

Set a Budget (and Stick to It)

It’s important to set a budget around the holiday season. And that’s something that I encourage my listeners, my readers and my clients to do actually in the beginning of the year.

So getting clear on how much money you want to be spending around the holiday season so that you can be saving all year, save every single month, put money aside automatically every month so that you have plenty of money for that holiday spending by the time the end of the year comes.

So that’s something that you should try to do in the start of 2020 but if you haven’t done that, create a budget for yourself for this holiday spending and really do your best to stick to it.

Something that I find helpful is having a specific savings account with that money in there. I can see exactly how much money there is available to be spending on gifts.

If you want to be even stricter with yourself, you can have a specific checking account that’s just for gifts.

That way, you can use the debit card for that account for gift spending so that you know there’s only a certain amount left and you’re not tempted to be swiping a credit card.

That’s a really helpful way to do it. Putting systems in place so that you’re actually sticking to a budget once you set it is going to be really important because we’re humans. It’s easy to get off track, it’s easy to get distracted and so setting a budget on its own is not necessarily enough.

Get Creative

Our society has definitely fully embraced the idea of giving gifts as our way to celebrate the holidays. And I don’t see that going away anytime soon.

But the truth is that’s not necessarily how you have to do it. However, if you do like giving gifts or if it’s a tradition to give gifts in your family, you can get a little bit creative with how you do it. You don’t have to go to the store and buy something brand new for someone. You can get crafty and make something.

You could make something like a scrapbook for that person to show the history of your relationship with each other or maybe a scrapbook about something that they really love.

You could make cookies, you could offer to cook them their favorite meal around the holiday season as a gift for them that could be a nice alternative option for showing your love to someone, especially if it’s someone who maybe doesn’t want to receive gifts.

It also could be just spending time together.

My dad often doesn’t really want anything in particular for Christmas because he tends to be pretty good at buying things for himself when he wants them. And so he has said, you know, I would love to just go out to lunch with the three daughters and that is good enough for me.

Um, so those are just some options and you can get creative. Like I said, it’s going to depend on the person. It’s gonna depend on you, what you feel comfortable doing, what you’re good at.

Um, but you know, try to think outside of the box what are ways that you can show your love and enjoy your time with somebody that doesn’t put you in debt, that doesn’t make you feel like you have to go to the busy mall that maybe stresses you out every day.

Just think a little bit outside the box and get a little bit more creative. You might be surprised by what you’ll find.

Communicate

Communication is so important when it comes to most things, but especially when money is involved. And that’s just as important around the holidays. One thing to keep in mind is communicating your own budget limitations. And I’ve talked about this before, but I think being positive in those conversations is really important.

So rather than saying, “Oh my God, I’m so broke, I just can’t afford to buy you gifts and like, please don’t ask me to get you gifts,” it’s more like, “I have these very specific financial goals that I’m trying to work towards right now. I’m trying to get my financial life in order. So I want to be more thoughtful and responsible and creative around the holiday season.

In lieu of gifts, I’ll be baking everybody cookies.” That’s just one example of how to have that conversation preemptively.

It’s also important to communicate with your loved ones to find out what they actually want and expect around the holidays. I know that there are people out there who receive gifts every year that maybe don’t particularly want them. You might be one of those people!

Those can be difficult conversations, especially with people who really love to give gifts and that’s just something they’ve always done. But communicating about your needs in that way or your desires in that regard as well as finding out what they really want. You can ask your loved ones something like this: “What would mean the most to you this holiday season to receive?” And I wouldn’t be surprised if a parent was like, I would much rather have you come be home for the holidays, then bring a bunch of gifts.

Let people know your situation. Tell them that you are trying to connect more and that you want to spend more quality time with people over buying gifts for people.

And I think you’d be pleasantly surprised at how open people are to that option. Because there’s nothing worse than buying a gift for someone just because you’re supposed to show your love and then resenting them for it because you couldn’t actually afford to buy it.

So try to move away from that resentment and that stress this holiday season and start adopting your own new traditions that help you stick to your goals and align with your values so that you’re not getting overwhelmed and being pushed into debt.

Good luck and happy holidays!

This article first appeared on MaggieGermano.com.