4 Steps You Need To Take NOW To Save On Holiday Gifts

It may be annoying to see Christmas displays in stores before Halloween, but that does not mean that early shopping for Christmas presents is a bad idea. On the contrary — there are several advantages to doing your holiday shopping before the holiday “sales” start popping up. You can save money without having to fight the crowds.

If you'd like to avoid the usual holiday hordes, you have no time to waste, because many Americans have the same idea this year. According to a recent survey by OpenX and The Harris Poll, more than 30% of U.S. consumers already began their holiday shopping in September or earlier, and almost 40% planned to start in October through Thanksgiving. Start shopping early and lower your overall holiday stress with these four simple steps.

If you have favorite retailers, look for online-only deals with those stores and suppliers. Follow them on social media and sign up for any e-mail notifications or loyalty programs that they offer. You are likely to come across special time-dependent deals that can save you plenty as long as you are aware that they exist.

There is one circumstance where it may make sense to wait until the holidays — big-ticket items such as televisions that tend to go on sale on Black Friday or Cyber Monday. You have to decide whether the reward of an extremely low price is worth the risk of the vendor selling out before you can buy one, or the hassle of dealing with overloaded websites or a horde of amped-up buyers. You don't want to wind up on the news fighting over the last 65″ Vizio!

The real message is this: keep a bargain mentality year-round. Get feedback all year about what would make good holiday gifts, and watch for sales throughout the year on those items. A little organization and foresight can save you lots of money on last-minute pricing (and last-minute shipping), and also save you from having to join the panicked masses stumbling around the mall on the last possible shopping day looking for last-minute inspiration.

If you want to do the ultimate bit of holiday shopping, wait for the January post-holiday sales and stock up on sale items that will make useful presents throughout the year or even as stocking stuffers for the next holiday. All you must do is hide them from your spouse and kids for months. That shouldn't be a problem, right?

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Photo iStockphoto.com/Eva-Katalin

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