ANCHORAGE -

On a busy Saturday afternoon at an Anchorage mall in December, shoppers search through bargain bins and tote around carts and bags.

With advertised deals all over the place, it can be easy to get carried away and to forget to keep spending in check. 

J. Chris Andrews is a financial advisor. Along with family members, he visits Santa Claus at the height of Christmas shopping season each year.

Andrews said a little planning can go a long way when it comes to planning for the holidays. He suggested using programs online to  start saving early in the year so you put away a specific amount of money to spend on Christmas.

Unless he has a specific purchase in mind, Andrews said he leaves his credit card at home.

"You'll see people who don't use their credit cards at all during the year, then they'll max them out in two weeks," he said. 

Andrews said what can seem small becomes a big deal when the customer is paying for December purchases three months later. "That makes no one's spring break happy," he said.

Getting kids involved in careful spending can also be helpful, Andrews said: like talking about how much you are going to spend with children before you leave the house to go shopping.

Jean Sargent and Sally Brook rang bells for the Salvation Army at the Sears Mall. Both say with grown children, they spend less than they used to.

Sargent said she shops for about seven people and gives them cash.

"I take a look at my checkbook and I think it's ravaged," Sargent said, adding that her family draws names so they buy for fewer people."

Sally Brook said it seems like gifts for children are getting more expensive.

"I think we were more simple," she said. "We wanted dolls."

While setting limits and planning ahead are not exactly festive, there are other ways to bring joy during the holidays.

Andrews said he remembers to spend time with family members, and Brook said she likes just driving around looking at holiday lights.

"That's a real highlight here," Brook said.