Editor's Note: This story originally appeared on Living on the Cheap.
Real frugalistas know that you should start the next year’s holiday shopping the day after Christmas.
But let’s face it: Not everyone is in the mood. For me, starting after Labor Day is early enough, unless I spot some perfect and irresistible item in May.
The thing about early holiday shopping is that you have the time to think about purchases and, better yet, to budget for them. You don’t have to blow your credit limit all in one month.
The National Retail Federation estimates that consumers ages 45 to 64 will spend more than $600 on Christmas gifts every year. And that doesn’t include things like decorations.
The study also shows that 38% of consumers start their Christmas shopping before November, which they estimate saves them an average of nearly $400 total by shopping wisely and taking advantage of early discounts.
Here are some tips on saving money on holiday gifts, gleaned from experts in the area of wise shopping.
1. Start watching sale flyers
That electronic gadget your husband has been craving might go on sale in October. Cruise some stores to see who has the best prices on whatever you’re seeking. And don’t forget about Amazon Prime Day — it’s like Black Friday before Black Friday. You might score a deal that saves you hundreds!
If you aren’t 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 for whom you have to buy. Beside each name, put down an idea or two — don’t be too intent on just one possibility.
3. Set a budget
Maybe you will spend $100 on your hubby, but only $25 on everyone else (or whatever limit you want). Be realistic about what you can buy for that amount, in case you need to readjust it.
4. Keep track of what you buy
It’s easy to tuck away that sweater for Mom and then forget you bought it until you go to tally up things before wrapping. A running list of purchases will keep you from buying duplicates, especially if you have a lot of folks to buy for. (Check out our tips for putting together a gift closet that really works for you.)
5. Check out arts and crafts fairs
They’re great for unearthing unique and special items that will say “I thought of you” instead of “I found this.” Also check out those marketplaces that carry antiques, collectibles and tons of quirky, 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 it was purchased, don’t throw it away once the presents are wrapped. Save it for next year, so you won’t wonder, “Didn’t I get Grandpa a cardigan last year?” You’ll have it in writing.
So shop early, shop smart and save money. That’s your gift to yourself.