The holiday season is filled with tradition. Many families have their own unique customs, and those traditions create lasting memories for adults and children alike.

One such holiday tradition is shopping for gifts for family and friends. Many people enjoy holiday shopping, anxiously anticipating the look on their loved ones’ faces when they open their presents.

But holiday shopping is even more enjoyable for shoppers who can save a little extra money. The following are a few tips for shoppers who still want to give the perfect gifts but don’t want to break the bank.

* SHOP LOCAL! You don’t have to travel far. You’ll save on gas and traffic won’t be a concern. You get personal help from the shop owners with great unique gift ideas plus the money you spend stays in your community.

Many communities have local chamber dollars that can be spent at any business.

Gift certificates to local restaurants, retail stores and businesses are always welcome and are a gift that fits everyone!

* Empty your wallet of gift cards. Gift cards are popular gifts come the holidays, but many gift card recipients fail to use their cards prior to their expiration dates. Many cards expire 12 months after their initial purchase date. If your wallet is filled with gift cards you received last holiday season, use them to buy gifts for friends and family now before they expire.

* Make a list. Santa Claus is renowned for making a list come the holiday season, and holiday shoppers should follow his lead.

Prior to your first holiday shopping trip, make a list that includes the names of friends and family to buy for and what you want to buy for each one of them. Doing so decreases the chances you’ll forget someone and be forced to drive back to the mall. Reducing the number of shopping trips you have to make will conserve fuel and save you a substantial amount of money and time.

* Pay in cash. If you’re not a fan of online shopping, then use only cash when shopping at brick-and-mortar stores. Paying with cash eliminates the risk of overspending with credit cards, which will come back to haunt you in January when the bills are due. Take a predetermined amount of cash with you when shopping, and once that money is gone, then it’s time to go home.

* Don’t be tempted by retailer credit cards. Retailer credit cards can be very tempting, especially when the cashier offers an immediate 20 percent discount if you sign up for the card at the register. But that discount comes at a steep price down the road. Not only will you be receiving a bill after the holiday season, but that retailer credit card will most definitely feature a high interest rate that can negate the initial discount at the register — unless you pay off the balance in full.

* Create spending parameters with your immediate family. The economy has yet to fully recover from the downturn that began nearly half a decade ago. As a result, many people still approach the holiday shopping season with a degree of trepidation. Get together with your immediate family and establish spending parameters so no person feels like he or she has to spend too much money on holiday shopping. Agree that no gift should cost more than $25. Everyone will still enjoy the holiday season and one another’s company, and they won’t be forced to deal with the stress of overspending.

3 Tips For The Perfect Holiday Buffet

The countdown to the holidays is on, bringing with it the challenge of how to serve a large gathering fast and easy. Fear not! There’s a simple solution. Forego the traditional, full-service, sit-down meal and opt instead for a buffet-style serving. Follow these three steps and yours will be a gathering remembered with fondness by both your guests and you.

1. Divide and Conquer: No more waiting in lines as Uncle Fred peruses the spread so slowly other guests nearly faint from hunger! “Set up multiple food stations. This idea will save your sanity,” says Chef Jeff Gillis, “A few days before your gathering, clear most items off your kitchen countertops, table, island and dining room buffet and move contents to the laundry room or garage. Convert each area into a serving station where foods will be grouped by category.

Label each area with a sticky note so that when the big day arrives, the stations can quickly assembled.”

At each serving station, stack plates so diners needn’t traipse off to the table for one. Pre-fill glasses with ice and beverages for quick pick-up. Remember, it’s hard to carry more than a plate and glass so preset the table with napkins and flatware.

2. Control the Crowd: “Don’t think twice about placing tables in multiple rooms,” adds Chef Gillis. “That’s better than crowding everyone together or asking guests to balance plates on laps while sitting on your sofa.” To seat people quickly (and without a fuss), use place cards.

3. Keep It Simple: Flowers in a vase are so last year.

Instead, style up the buffet with an eye-catching “Gratitude Tree,” a sculptural bronze metal tabletop tree festooned with ribboned tree tags. Guests write what they’re thankful for on tags and after dinner’s done, take turns reading. This is a unique way to remind guests about the true meaning of the day and, because the tree arrives ready for display, it’s a real timesaver.

Remember — every minute saved adds up to extra time you can spending enjoying the day with your guests.