Megan Shoemaker of Fairless Hills, Pa., works on a Christmas stocking display at Kohl's in Yardley, Pa., on Friday, Oct. 2, 2015. Credit: William Thomas Cain | TNS

The Christmas season is rapidly approaching. Can you have a wonderful holiday while keeping your expenses down? Of course, you can. All it takes is willpower — and a plan.

If you are having trouble making a plan, feel free to use the following five ideas as a starting point.

Don’t overspend on gifts

Easier said than done, you say? Not necessarily. You can keep your gift expenses down by making a budget, shopping early, shopping online for deals, and using any coupons or discounts available. If you really want to ensure that you do not overspend, leave the credit cards at home and pay in cash.

It is best if you can get the whole family to agree to keep gift expenses down. Some families draw names so each member does not feel obligated to buy gifts for everyone else.

Finally, consider making your gifts instead of buying them. Keepsakes such as knitted clothing or handcrafted art will not only save money but may well become family treasures.

Keep decorations simple

You do not need a massive tree, or even a real tree, to retain the Christmas spirit. Go with a smaller or artificial tree, stick with simple ornaments, and avoid disposable items such as tinsel.

Lights are fine, but there is no need to overdo it and light up (or potentially brown out) the neighborhood. A few simple strings of newer and more energy efficient lights will keep energy costs down. You don’t have to keep them on 24/7, either.

After the Christmas holiday, you can check at hobby, craft, and big-box stores for clearance decorations that you can store for next year’s use. You might be able to save on future gifts at the same time. However, stay away from the clearance candy aisle or you will spend (and eat) more than you should.

Save on travel

If you are traveling by air over the holidays, keep a watch on prices and buy your ticket as early as you reasonably can. Airlines are packed over the holidays and prices can spiral for the few remaining seats. Consider nearby airports within reasonable driving distance – you may be able to find a good enough deal to cover rental car expenses and the extra time involved.

Drivers may be at the mercy of local gas prices, but you can save a little gas money by making sure tires are properly inflated, driving at the speed limit, and avoiding side trips.

If you have to, consider holding your Christmas holiday gathering early or late to allow travelers to arrive when airfares are a bit more reasonable.

Keep Christmas dinner modest

Christmas dinners can be as bad as Thanksgiving for wasting food. If you want a ham or turkey, shop early for good deals and keep the size to a minimum, or have a plan for the leftovers to avoid waste.

Minimize side dishes, or ask others to bring side dishes potluck-style to increase the variety while spreading out the expense.

Avoid impulse buying

Impulse buying can easily get out of control. Stick to the budget you already made, and keep track of your spending so you can verify you are on budget. If you slip, keep the receipt in case you decide to return the item.

These and other simple tips can help you have a wonderful holiday without worrying about holiday debt. You can then focus on what is really important — your loved ones and the joyous time that you get to spend with them.

Related stories: is a website that answers people’s money-related questions, publishes guides explaining products and services available in the marketplace, provides calculators to help people plan and budget, and produces related content.