As the winter holidays approach, current economic conditions might cause you to be more cautious than usual about how much to spend on friends and family this year. If rising costs, an uncertain stock market, and high interest rates are giving you pause about spending this holiday season, use these tips as a guide to stretch your dollar and help your spirit of giving thrive. 

Create a Budget

Reading headlines and online discussions about the economy can create a perception that consumers should be more cautious and avoid spending on luxuries, including holiday gifts. Instead of letting the news guide your budget, write down an actual breakdown of your income and expenses to see what you can afford. 

Pay with Cash

Americans increasingly rely on credit cards to pay for goods and services. Unless you pay your balance in full, however, you’ll spend far more on your holiday gifts than the retail price because you’ll also pay interest. To keep spending in check, and to avoid tacking interest payments onto the cost of your purchases, pay with cash—or be sure that you can pay off your entire credit card balance. Although using a debit card is another option, be aware that this method puts you at greater risk for cybercrime. If your account number is somehow stolen, it’s much easier for a scammer to quickly access your money—and there are fewer consumer protections with a debit card than there are with a credit card. 

Shop Sales

Keep an eye out for sales, coupon codes, and free shipping perks before making a purchase, especially at big box stores. Overstocked products will find their way to off-price retailers as larger stores sell off their excess. If you’re looking for a specific gift, compare that item at various retailers to ensure that you’re getting the best deal. 

Buy Off-Season

While most people are focusing on pumpkin spice and sweater season, stores are hoping to get rid of swimsuits, beach towels, and pool floats they still have in stock. If you can suspend your summer mindset for a few more weeks, you could score significant deals on gear for next year. Remember this tip at the end of winter, too, when prices for cold-weather attire are similarly slashed. 

Support Small Businesses

If you have wiggle room in your budget, purchasing gifts from a nearby small business might help keep that company in the black during a tough year. Buying small stimulates the local economy and keeps jobs in your community. 

Although the state of the economy might not be ideal for holiday gifting, be assured that there are ways to use current conditions to your advantage—and spread holiday cheer and generosity to everyone on your list.