"Another option that reduces the brunt of holiday spending is utilizing the layaway option," says Van Buren. "Stores that offer this service give consumers a way to make smaller payments, avoid interest and save money."
4. Make the most of gift cards and rewards points
You may also put a dent in your holiday gift list without breaking out the credit card by searching for hidden money around your house.
Hunt notes many individuals have partially used gift cards in their wallets, tucked away in greeting cards or stashed in drawers.
"Look for gift cards everywhere," she says.
In addition to using gift cards, those with rewards credit cards may be able to leverage their rewards points for holiday spending.
"We've heard of consumers who pay for purchases by using a credit card to gather points. Anything they could charge they did, working within their budget and (paying) the balance off each month," says Van Buren. "Then when Christmas arrived, they cashed in their points for presents."
5. Prepare a Plan B
Finally, if you do feel the need to pull out the credit card for Christmas, have a detailed plan for how you'll pay off your balance.
"Even before charging those gifts, make sure to have a plan in place to pay down the debt," says Springer. "Work to get the balance under 35 percent of your credit limit as quickly as possible. Balances over 35 percent can have an adverse effect on your credit score."
Hunt says individuals who charge during the holiday season shouldn't beat themselves up, but they do need to be aggressive about paying off their bill.
"Take the amount [owed] and divide it by three and pay off that amount each month," she recommends. "You do not want to face Easter with bills from Christmas."
To avoid the same problem next year, Van Buren suggests consumers ask their bank or credit union if they offer a Christmas Club account. Another option is to open a separate savings account -- perhaps even at an online bank, if it will help reduce the temptation for impulse withdrawals -- and use that as a dedicated fund for holiday savings.
No one wants to start the New Year with a debt hangover, but if you take action now, there is no reason why you can't have a very happy holiday in December and a very happy wallet in January.
Maryalene LaPonsie has been writing professionally for more than a decade on a variety of subjects including life insurance and personal finance. Maryalene holds a Bachelor's Degree in Political Science from Western Michigan University.
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