The funny thing about the holidays is that they come every year. And every year, we're surprised that they're here. And every year, we need to prepare with our money, as well as our minds.

It's true for me less often now, thankfully, due to a few really simple (though not always comfortable) financial principles I've begun to practice over the past several years.

1. The Holidays Come Every Year. Be Prepared

Start saving something now. Doesn't matter how much or for how long. Anything is better than nothing. Even if it's only $10 a paycheck. Do it. You might find that when Christmas comes, you've saved $100 that you had to borrow last year. Or if you're fortunate enough, it may be even more than that.

2. As Much as Possible, Don't Borrow for Christmas

See #1 above. And note that I do say as much as possible. Complete solvency is another subject all by itself, but it is a noble goal nonetheless. And it's a process which you can start on this holiday season. How to do that? Keep reading.

3. Have a Spending Plan

Know what you're going to buy and how much you're going to spend before you ever leave the house. Try to think of it as a spending plan, not a budget, and stick to it as much as possible. Make sure you've included everybody — even the office party and the next door neighbor you feel guilty for not visiting enough. The plan may very well change, but you're always better off having a plan to start with.

4. Keep in Mind That Money Does Not Equal Love

It doesn't. And it's got nothing to do with guilt, either. (See #3 above.), so don't spend for either one. Be reasonable. Be prudent. Be generous. But be thoughtful, because that's what it's really about. Adam Jacob with FrugalDad agrees,

"I think it's important to play up the fact that money really doesn't equal love. The holidays are about spending time with loved ones and not about how much money you can spend."

5. Be Patient

Be patient with yourself. Be patient with others, including your spouse if applicable. There's a learning curve to all of this. I still can't get it right all the time myself. And If you find something you could have done better, don't beat up on yourself. Instead, make a note of it.You'll find that you can try it again next year.

6. Don't Do It Alone

Reading stuff like this online is a great start, but if you have financial concerns, it helps to have someone or something to be accountable to. Even if you're married or have a partner, find someone else to talk with. The important thing is to realize that you're not the only person in this position. A lot of people are, and money problems is probably the most unmentioned secret between us. Sure, we joke about it, but few people really do anything about it. And if you're one of those who want to, it can get lonely real quick. So get with other people who are doing the same thing — whether it's a close friend, or Debtors Anonymous, or Dave Ramsey. You're not alone, and there truly is safety in numbers.

This post was included in the Carnival of Financial Planning the Top Personal FInance Posts Of The Week blog carnival, and the Christmas 2011 Blog Carnival.