Now is the Best Time to Start Your Holiday Shopping!

/ BY / Personal Finance

With the holidays right around the corner, shopping season will soon be in full swing. According to a study by the American Research Group, the average American household spends just under $700 on holiday gifts, food, and decoration.

Many people put a vast majority of their holiday spending on credit cards, which adds to household debt and can put a strain on your finances. If you want to save money and avoid going further into debt, now is the best time to start your holiday shopping. Waiting until the last minute often means putting last minute purchases on credit. It also puts you at the mercy of retailer, many of whom make the most money on procrastinators.

You can still enjoy the holidays and get everything on your list without going into debt by following these tips:

Set a budget.

A budget is a must. Decide how much you plan on spending for the holidays, then stick to it. This is another reason to start your shopping early—it’s easier to set aside a little money each paycheck for shopping than to save it all for the last minute. Make sure your budget also accounts for extra spending for food and decorations.

If you have trouble sticking to a budget, consider a cash-only approach to your holiday shopping. And if you want to avoid debt, remove your credit cards from your wallet altogether.

Make a plan.

The holidays are hectic for most of us. Save money and stress by getting organized. Make lists of who you need to buy gifts for, then set limits on gift-giving and make a list of gift ideas that fall within those limits. The same goes for food and decorations. A well thought out plan will make sticking to your budget much easier.

Take advantage of apps.

If you have a smartphone, there are literally thousands of apps that can help you save money on your holiday shopping. Some of the best ones include coupon apps that send coupons directly to your phone eliminate the need to hunt for and clip coupons, price comparison apps that allow you to scan a barcode and find the lowest price in your area or online, and apps that send you notifications of sales and deals from your favorite stores.

Hit the sales.

If the thought of getting up in the middle of the night on Black Friday and dealing with masses of bargain hunters frightens you, don’t worry—you don’t have to fight the Black Friday crowds to take advantage of sales. Keep your eyes open for sales in the coming months, as they tend to be more frequent and offer more savings around the holidays. If you have favorite stores, sign up for their email alerts to stay updated on upcoming sales.

Go online.

More and more people are taking their holiday shopping online for a number of reasons. You don’t have to fight with masses of holiday shoppers, and you can almost always save more money by shopping online. Comparison shop for the best deals, and look for sites that offer free shipping.

In an attempt to increase their online sales, many retailers also offer online-only sales, some of which offer significant savings (think 40% off everything on the site). If you’re doing the majority of your shopping online, starting early is key as well—popular items and sizes tend to sell out quickly.

When it comes to holiday shopping, procrastinating can be both stressful and costly. You can save your nerves and your budget by starting your holiday shopping now and taking advantage of these money-saving tips.

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Please note your financial situation is unique and our tips & advice presented here may not be appropriate for your situation. recommends that you seek different advice & opinions from your own accountant or financial adviser who understands your individual circumstances before making any important decisions or implementing any financial strategy.