Christmas is 36 days away.

Although the most important part of the holiday is celebrating a very special birth and getting together with loved ones, gifts are another tradition for many families.

Unfortunately, gift-giving can be difficult for those on a stretched-to-the-max budget. And complicating things for this Christmas are labor and product shortages, combined with higher prices and shipping delays. This has the potential to make the holiday more costly and stressful than usual.

“Despite the uncertainty and added stress brought on by supply-chain and other pandemic-induced challenges, no doubt many people will get caught up in the spending spirit this holiday season,” said Michael Sullivan, a personal financial consultant with Take Charge America, a nonprofit credit counseling agency. “But overextending yourself doesn’t help you, your family or friends. Smart budgeting and some shopping tricks can get you into the spirit without a financial hangover.”

Sullivan shared these tips to ensure you don’t overspend this holiday season:

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  • Stick to a budget: Before you start shopping, set your holiday budget, including spending ceilings for everyone on your nice list. Keep your budget realistic and aligned with what you can afford. Stick to the plan by avoiding unnecessary extras or accessories that can add up and easily bust your budget.

  • Buy last year’s model: From TVs to mobile phones, manufacturers introduce new models every year. But for most people, the latest and greatest features don’t justify the extra cost. Gift last year’s model to save on devices and gadgets.

  • When shopping online, use price comparison tools like Google Shopping, BizRate or NexTag. Some sites allow you to set up alerts for when items hit a certain price. If shopping in-store, download apps like ShopSavvy or RedLaser that let you scan product barcodes to check prices on items at other retailers.

  • Ask about price matching: Many stores will match competitor prices to keep from losing a sale. You just need to ask. Generally, you must provide proof of the lower price, usually in a newspaper flier or online deal.

  • Consider non-traditional gifts: Rather than spending money on a gift, consider offering your time or talent. Perhaps you’re crafty, love babysitting or would extend some manual labor.

We’d like to add a few other pointers to the list:

  • Visit local stores before buying things online. Their prices are more competitive than you may think, the owners stand behind their products and giving your business to local stores benefits everyone in the community.

  • Consider giving a gift in the name of a family member or friend through one of our local non-profit organizations, such as United Way, or to a cause like the “Toys for Tots” program. Take a photo or video of your good deed or put it in a card, explaining that the donation was made in their name.

  • Remember the local gift card opinion. A gift card to a local restaurant, shop or business will be more appreciated than some latest gadget or a spur-of-the-moment Amazon purchase. An added bonus: Many restaurants offer deals, such as buying $50 in gift cards and getting an extra $10 for yourself.

  • Lastly, and most importantly, don’t let gifts be the focal point of your Christmas. Remember the deeper, more essential parts of the holiday: love, wonder, joy and the celebration of a humble birth that forever changed the world.