Keep track of where your dollars go with an easy (and portable) system
Pick up a loose-leaf or spiral notebook and designate one section for your budget (save other sections for future years so you can compare what you spent). Tuck a plastic sleeve into your notebook and use it to store receipts.
Carry your notebook and write down purchases as you shop. If you find a bargain, you'll have extra cash for another category. Note that amount with a "plus" sign in a separate column. If you spend more than expected, write a "minus" sign next to that amount, and be prepared to shrink costs elsewhere.
The best way to forecast this year's budget is to look at what you spent last year. If you didn't keep track, write in ballpark figures next to each spending category. Add up the list to get the total projected cost. If the number looks huge, start adjusting down. Will travel expenses bust your budget? Consider staying home. Endless gift list? Opt for homemade presents or set a $10 limit on gifts for extended family.
Cash is king when it comes to keeping your spending on track. But for some buys, like electronics or furniture, a credit card makes more sense. Many cards offer purchase protection in case of damage or theft -- which is a good reason to charge big-ticket items. Write down charges in your holiday budget notebook and deduct each transaction from your checkbook balance so the money is in your account when the bill comes in.