Editor’s note: This story originally appeared on Living on the Cheap.
Real economists know that you should start next year’s holiday shopping the day after Christmas.
But let’s face it: Not everyone is in a good mood. For me, getting started after Labor Day is early enough, unless I discover a perfect and irresistible item in May.
The great thing about early holiday shopping is that you have time to think about purchases and, better yet, budget for them. You do not have to exceed your entire credit limit in one month.
The National Retail Federation estimates that consumers aged 45 to 64 will spend more than $600 on Christmas gifts each year. This does not include things like decorations.
The study also shows that 38% of consumers start their Christmas shopping before November, which they estimate saves them nearly $400 on average by shopping wisely and taking advantage of early discounts.
Here are some tips on saving money on holiday gifts, gleaned from experts in the field of wise shopping.
1. Start watching sales flyers
This electronic gadget your husband has been craving may go on sale in October. Walk around a few stores to see who has the best prices on whatever you’re looking for. And don’t forget about Amazon Prime Day – it’s like Black Friday before Black Friday. You may get a deal that saves you hundreds!
If you are not currently a prime member, you can be (free) for 30 days.
2. Don’t go anywhere without your list
It should include the names of everyone you are buying for. Next to each name, put an idea or two – don’t be bent on just one possibility.
3. Determine the budget
You’ll probably spend $100 on your spouse, but only $25 on anyone else (or whatever limit you want). Be realistic about what you can buy with that amount, in case you need to adjust it.
4. Keep track of what you buy
It’s easy to throw out that sweater for mom and then forget about it until you’ve collected things before you pack them. A list of ongoing purchases will prevent you from buying duplicates, especially if you have a lot of people to buy for. (Check out our tips on putting together a gift wardrobe that really works for you.)
5. Check out the arts and crafts fairs
They are great for revealing unique and special items that will say “I thought of you” instead of “I found this”. Also check out those markets that hold antiques, collectibles, and tons of weird, unique, and unusual items.
6. Keep track of previous year’s purchases
Once you have that final list of what you bought and for whom you bought it, don’t throw it away just by gift wrapping. Keep it for next year, so you won’t be wondering, “Didn’t I get Grandpa’s cardigan last year?” You will get it in writing.
So shop early, shop smart and save money. This is your gift to yourself.
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