It’s that time of the year again. Christmas and New Year are just around the corner and everyone’s getting into the holiday mood. UAE residents are gearing up for the festivities and the country’s diverse festive spirit is soaring with various Christmas, New Year and winter festivals being organized all around the UAE.

But holiday preparations, gifts, decorations – all cost money. Yes, these celebrations come once a year, but the financial burden doesn’t have to last for the next few months. And you can still enjoy the festivities and holiday traditions without leaving a big dent in your finances.

Below are a few tips you can use to celebrate a debt-free Christmas and festive season.

Be a smart shopper this holiday season

Holiday shopping can easily get out of hand and become an overwhelming task rather than an enjoyable one. Here are a few tips to help you sail through this festive shopping time smoothly:

Create a holiday budget

It’s important to create a budget, and more so to stick to it. Make a list of what you have to buy – gifts, decorations etc. and allocate a certain amount to each category. Stay away from impulsive purchases, these can easily make you go over-budget.

Shop ahead of the holiday season

You can avoid paying full price on packing materials, decorations, etc. if you shop a few months before the onset of the festive season. Besides the off-season discounts, you can also avoid the long queues and crowds.

Look out for deals and discounts

You will miss a good deal if you don’t hear about it. It makes sense to stay abreast of deals going on at certain stores like ‘buy 1 get 1 free’ or other discounts. Don’t buy the first thing you see, compare prices and check for deals. also provides readers a weekly update of the latest deals and discounts in the UAE through its ‘Save This Week’ series.

Save with the right credit card

Your credit card can help you save significantly either through shopping discounts, cashback, air miles or other loyalty rewards that you can redeem at your favorite stores and outlets. Just make sure not to go overboard with your purchases to avoid debt.

On a shoestring budget? You can still be festive

Even if you’re currently facing financial constraints and don’t have a lot of cash to spare, this shouldn’t dampen your festive spirit. We have a few tips to ensure that you have a great time with your family and friends:

Secret Santa instead of individual gifts

If you have a big extended family or large group of friends, you can also organize a Secret Santa gift ceremony. Everyone buys one gift and everyone gets one gift too. So you don’t have to buy 10 gifts for everyone.

Have a combined Christmas or New Year get-together

Instead of every family throwing a different Christmas party, you and your close family and friends can organize a combined one, so everyone ends up saving on the extra hosting expenses. Or you could even try a pot luck and host a dinner at your place.

DIY gifts and decorations

You can design your own Christmas tree ornaments and tree toppers. You can also get your kids to help with the crafts. This can actually turn into a fun activity that you can enjoy as a family. You can even make creative handmade gifts for your family and friends.

[Related: Countdown to Christmas with a festive budget | Christmas 2015: How are you celebrating?]

The festive spirit has little to do with your budget

The festive season doesn’t have to be about how much you can spend or how many fancy gifts you can buy. Here are few ideas to add a personal touch to the festivities, without worrying about expenses:

Focus on creating memories

Gifts are great, but memories last a lifetime. For families, where both parents are working it would be wonderful if you can make your Christmas and New Year’s eve celebrations a cozy family affair. Spend time with the kids and do fun family activities together. Go to the beach, the park or one of the free-entry-for-all winter events happening in the UAE.

Start a new family tradition

Christina, a UAE resident shares: “Every year, back home in the UK, our family had a holiday tradition that we all followed religiously. After opening our gifts, we all used to go out for a drive around the neighborhood to look at everyone’s Christmas lights and decorations.”

A family bake-day every year could turn into so much fun, so could a holiday scrapbook. The idea is to engage all family members in an activity which has nothing to do with your budget, but makes the holiday season a special time for the whole family.

Regardless of the budget, you can have a lovely time with your closest friends, start new family traditions, involve your children in preparations and make the most of this wonderful time of the year.