It’s hard to resist holiday messages to buy gifts—and plenty of them—to make the season brighter and more fulfilling.
However, disruptions in the supply chain could make shopping this year stressful, especially for parents looking to buy toys in small quantities. Deficiencies aside, over-giving gifts to your kids can put pressure on the budget and unintentionally set unrealistic expectations for years to come.
This year’s extra stress may give parents a chance to rethink their holiday shopping and budgeting strategies. These tips from budget and parenting experts can help you get past the noise and find what works for your family.
Set your holiday budget
Budgeting is critical to keeping spending under control. If you’re struggling to figure out a realistic vacation budget, see previous years’ spending.
“You can literally pull your credit card statements from last November and December if you want to get a general idea of where your money has gone,” says Andrea Worach, a money-saving expert who focuses on tips for moms. Think about whether you want to repeat this spending pattern or if it left you nervous when January started.
Budgets change from year to year. “Things can change dramatically within a year,” Woroch says. “Do you have another child? Did you break up or get married or buy a house and get a new job and lose your job? Whatever it is, you kind of have to reassess based on your current situation.”
Take inventory and be organized
Things get lost in overflowing toy boxes. Taking an inventory of what you already have is a great way to find out what your kids need and an opportunity to put aside items they’ve outgrown.
Items in good condition can be donated or sold in online marketplaces to other parents looking to cut a deal.
Track early purchases
Gifts bought weeks or even months ago may have fallen off your radar—especially if you’ve hidden them well. Before hitting the stores, make a list of previous purchases.
“If you don’t write down what you bought, you’ll forget what you have,” says Woroch, who suggests using an app called Santa’s Bag — although a note on your phone or an old-fashioned pen and paper can work just as well. Tracking purchases throughout the season can help prevent overspending.
Find a gifting strategy that works every year
“Something they want, something they need, something to wear and something to read” is a popular phrase, and for good reason: It sets standards for gift giving and works regardless of a child’s age.
Another strategy is to buy fewer toys and focus on what supports your child’s development, which is especially important for younger children. Kathryn Humphreys, assistant professor in Vanderbilt University’s Department of Psychology and Human Development, suggests finding games that allow for collaboration and open play.
“A well-chosen number of toys is probably better than a large number of toys that are difficult for a child to keep track of during a busy day of opening,” she said in an email. “With my kids, I find that anything more than two to three gifts is quickly forgotten because Christmas is really exciting.”
Spend on experiences that last all year long
Woroch suggests buying a kids’ subscription box for a “gift that keeps on giving” after the holidays are over. There are plenty of options for kids offering everything from art projects, Montessori games and various books each month. Some of these services may run in holiday promotions, so look for a deal.
The comparison game resistance
It’s hard for parents to resist comparing themselves to others, especially when social media channels are overloaded with holiday photos. Just remember that you don’t know what happens behind the scenes.
“It’s so easy to get caught up in what other families spend and what moms do, which makes you feel bad and end up spending more,” Warach says.
You’re looking at a special reel and don’t know if this family is spending beyond their means.
Memories are free
If the holiday gift craze has gripped you, just remember that this time of year is about more than just things.
“At the end of the day, it’s really important to remember that the holidays are not about material gifts,” Warch says. “Creating memories and perhaps creating traditions that don’t cost a lot of money is a great way to connect and bond with your children.”
This article was written by NerdWallet and originally published by the Associated Press.
The article Avoid Overspending and Budgeting on Children’s Holiday Gifts originally appeared on NerdWallet.