The holidays are right around the corner. It's time to start making those gift shopping lists and figuring out how much money to spend on each person without breaking the bank.

A new survey from LendingTree found that the stress levels are so high, that about a quarter of consumers (24%) say they are losing sleep worrying about how to pay for the holiday season.

The key to not overspending for the holidays is discipline, said Ken Kamen, president of Mercadien Asset Management in Hamilton.

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Rabbit hole of online shopping

Preparing a budget is easy but sticking to it is another story. He said one of the biggest things that blow up people's holiday spending is that they go shopping for others and while they're out in the stores or browsing online, they pick up something for themselves. Kamen said the gateway phrase for that is, "oh I deserve this." That's one pitfall people need to be on the lookout for, he added.

Technology poses another danger. People start going to websites they would never normally go to because maybe they're looking for a specific item. The next thing you know, these websites start sending you new items to think about buying and then you wind up buying them, sending you even further down the rabbit hole.

Another tip for staying on budget is to buy the small gifts first and the big gifts last, said Kamen.

"The more people you can knock off the list first before you go for the big guns, the better you're going to be because otherwise it's probably going to creep up what you're going to spend on everyone on the list," he said.

Shop with cash

Debt expectations are up too from last year. According to LendingTree, 41% of Americans say it's at least somewhat likely they'll incur holiday shopping debt this year.

Kamen said in order to keep this from happening, shop with cash instead of plastic. Make a list. Create a budget for each person with the cash on hand. Go to the mall. When the cash runs out, that's it.

He said people have to recognize that carrying money over in debt by not being able to pay for everything purchased, means you'll not only be paying this debt in the months or years to come, you'll be paying way more because of the added interest.

When people spend more than they have and wind up charging items, they get into a deadly cycle of paying only the minimum balances, which could take years to pay off.

Discipline yourself how much you're going to spend. Don't fall under the marketing spell of earning points. It's a suck-in tactic and you'll wind up paying for it in the end.

Expensive cycle of minimum payments

The survey also found that 13% of consumers are still paying off last year's holiday bills going into this holiday season. Kamen said overspending is to blame. When people spend more than they have and wind up charging items, they get into a cycle of paying only the minimum balances, which could take years to pay off.

Make this a small holiday if need be, said Kamen. Buy everyone small gifts. Nobody gets a gift over a certain number like $25 or $50. He said just make that the number and make it work.

Buy experiences and not physical things.[/pullequotes]

"Experiences appreciate over time. Stuff depreciates quickly," Kamen said.

A child may stop playing with that new toy in a couple of months. But taking the family away for a weekend, making that everyone's gift, will create memories that will last a lifetime, he said.

Kamen said kids don't need a "present tsunami." There's no need to buy a ton of toys for kids. Just a few are fine. They won't be inundated and the gift won't end up in a pile.

Shop alone, avoid personal cards

Often times, friends can convince you to buy more things or spend more money when you don't want to or even can't afford to do.

Forget greeting cards on each and every gift. Kamen said doing that could shave about $100 off the budget. Instead, write names on wrapping paper or gift tags.

Don't fall into the trap of "I deserve." Shop for others, not yourself.

"Humans have a tremendous ability to rationalize anything they want. Once you do that, you are in the gateway to the financial danger zone," said Kamen.

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