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Steps to Starting Your Holiday Shopping Early

You may get some interesting reactions when you tell others that you’ve started your holiday shopping several months ahead of time, but those same people will probably envy the extra time and money you have once the holidays roll around. Early holiday shopping will save you time, keep you from overspending, reduce holiday stress, and allow you the freedom to enjoy time with your family during a special time of year. Follow these tips to help make your holiday merry and bright.

Set a realistic budget

The first thing you need to do is set a realistic budget on how much you can afford to spend for holiday gifts. Have an honest discussion with your family and those you exchange gifts with about scaling back this year. Set a limit on how much you spend on each other’s gifts, or suggest spending quality time together instead of exchanging gifts. No gift is worth going into financial debt. Having this discussion early, while friends and family are also dealing with the previous holiday season’s bills, may be the best time for them to see the practicality in that approach.

Just make sure that before you start purchasing gifts, you have a budget set. If you aren’t satisfied with your budget, look for ways to save more money for your holiday fund. For example, brown bag your lunch for work, or bring coffee from home instead of buying it on the way to work. For more ideas on how to save money, read our article 101 Ways to Trim Your Budget.

Make a list (and check it twice)

One simple way to save money on holiday shopping is to pare down your list. Make a list of who you plan to give gifts to this year. Then, divide it up by how much you can spend on each person on your list while still staying within your budget, along with some ideas of what they may like. Keep your list on hand throughout the year, so you can look for thoughtful items as sales come up or you spot a bargain. Don’t forget to account for potential Secret Santa exchanges or other functions of which you plan to be a part.

Comparison shop

Shopping early allows you the time to comparison shop, look for sales, and use coupons. Wider selections and better deals can often be found early. Retailers plan on this because they count on shoppers not having a lot of time during the holiday season. Taking the time to shop around for the best price may take a little extra time, but the reward is more cash in your pocket.

Check clearance racks throughout the year

Most retailers have clearance sales at the end of each season. By starting your holiday shopping earlier you will be able to take advantage of more clearance sales. It’s not just last season’s clothing that is on sale either; many retailers discount toys, games, and electronics to make room for next season’s inventory.

Shop online without high shipping costs

Many online shopping sites offer free shipping and free wrapping promos early in the season. These offers usually become scarce as it gets closer to the holidays and for rush orders. Retailers often charge outrageous shipping and handling fees. Check web sites like Amazon.com that always have great deals and a free shipping option.

Substitute shopping with creativity

Getting started by planning holiday gifts early also gives you enough time to be creative and make some gifts at home. Some inexpensive examples are:

  • Frame an old family picture or one that brings back happy memories.
  • Make a book of your favorite recipes for someone as a gift.
  • Knit a winter scarf or a sweater.
  • Bake a batch of fancy cookies, wrap them up nicely, and include the recipe.

There is nothing more special than a gift someone spends their time, talent, and creativity to make.

Save time and reduce stress

As the holidays get closer, stores get more crowded, parking spaces get scarce, checkout lines get longer, and patience dwindles. Save yourself from all this aggravation by getting your shopping done early. You’ll then be able to focus on all the holiday activities you enjoy like baking goodies with the kids, decorating your home, mailing holiday cards, wrapping gifts, preparing special meals, and attending holiday parties.

So start budgeting now and follow these steps to complete your holiday shopping earlier. By starting early, you won’t be tempted to shop on impulse or to overspend like you might otherwise do if you wait until the last minute and buy under time constraints. Remember that it’s the thoughtfulness behind the gift that counts, not the expense of it. Loved ones want memories to cherish, not the memory that you went into debt buying gifts you couldn’t afford. Try this method and you may discover you like it so much that you never shop at the last minute again!

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