The holidays take a toll on all of us, especially our wallets. The big way to save money is to be smart about gift shopping. But there are other things you must consider to make sure you stick within your budget in the final month of the year.

Over the next few weeks, I hope to give you as many saving tips as I have in my arsenal to keep your family from overspending this season.

The first thing you need to do is to get in the right mind-set. Remind yourself at every turn of the shopping cart what the holidays are about.

I’m sure when you went around the table on Thanksgiving, most of you said you were thankful for family and friends. Spend your money on activities with those people, not lavish gifts.

There are so many free and cheap activities you can attend over the holidays that are kid-friendly. And in my opinion, spending time among the community is one of the best ways to get in the holiday spirit.

A number of parades in the Charleston area are scheduled for this weekend. They’re free and always fun to watch with friends and family. Here’s a rundown of some of the parades. For more information, contact the municipal offices of each town.

Today

Sullivan’s tree lighting: 5:30 p.m.

Saturday:

Hanahan: 10 a.m.

Isle of Palms: 2-7 p.m.

North Charleston: 3-9 p.m.

Charleston Parade of Boats: 5 p.m.

Sunday :

Hollywood: 2-5 p.m.

Summerille: 2 p.m.

Moncks Corner: 3:30 p.m.

Mount Pleasant: 5:30 p.m.

Walterboro: 5 p.m.

Dec. 14

Folly Beach: 1 p.m.

Other kid favorites are visits with Santa. Fridays with Santa are held 1-5 p.m. until Christmas in Marion Square. They also feature performances by local choirs and other musical acts. Art museums such as the Gibbes and Charleston Museum will have kid-friendly events throughout the month. Check their websites or visit events.postandcourier.com.

For decorations, do-it-yourself is the way to go. You can make your own wrapping paper with brown grocery bags. Get some holiday stamps from a craft store to decorate them. It’s actually pretty fun, it’s super cheap and you’re recycling at the same time.

If you plan to get a Christmas tree, it may be tempting to go for the biggest one in the lot. But those can be expensive. Save money by finding a small tree and propping it on top of milk crates. Use old table cloths instead of tree skirts. For ornaments, Pinterest.com has no shortage of ideas for making your own at little cost.

Reach Abigail Darlington at 937-5906 and follow her on Twitter @A_Big_Gail.