Too early to begin holiday shopping? … OK, maybe, for some of you. But it’s not too early to begin planning for holiday shopping! The more prep work you do, the better result you will have with your money and stress in the next six weeks.
1. Make your list. Hopefully you saved your list from last year as a starting point. If not, make a list of all the people you would like to give a gift to.
2. Make a budget. Determine the total amount you want to spend for everyone this holiday season.
3. Check how much you have. Have you been saving all year? We use an ING account  to deposit holiday money all year, that way when December rolls around we are set. If your budget and the amount you have don’t match, either revise your budget or determine how much you need to save each week between now and the end of the year.
4. Resist the temptation. The holidays are the most common time of year to whip out your credit card and tell yourself you will pay it off after the holidays. Don’t do it! Remember how crummy it makes you feel in the New Year?
5. Allocate your budget. Assign your budget to each person on your list. Remember the total can’t exceed your amount in number 3! Subtract or reallocate until you can make it match. This is another reason we are starting early… you haven’t gotten sucked into the spending mentality yet, so you can stop any spending impulses before they begin!
6. Let it sit. Think about your budget and your list for a few days. Every time I do this, I find that I want to adjust the recipients and the amounts I plan to spend.
7. Make the gift list. Brainstorm three items or categories for each person on your list. If you have three, you’ll be more likely to find one of them on sale at some point.
8. Mark the top three. Put a star by the people that you will purchase the most expensive gifts for. These are the gifts that you want to focus your time on finding super deals for; more expensive gifts usually means more opportunity to save!
9. Carry your list. Have it with you at all times. When you are out and about and see an incredible deal, pull out your list. If it matches one of the gifts or categories on your list, buy it! If it doesn’t fit your list… don’t buy it!!!
10. Begin handmade items. Remember when you thought it was silly to start planning now? If any of the gifts are ones that you can make by hand, the last thing you want to do is spend the night before up late finishing them. Make those now and get them out of the way.
11. Group similar items. Can you give the same gift to any of your recipients in a tactful way? For example, can you give an ornament to all the teachers? Anytime you can give a similar gift, it will be cheaper and require less shopping.
12. Take advantage of shipping deals. Now is the time to try a free month of Amazon Prime  if you haven’t yet. That way, if you find a spectacular deal you won’t have to worry about filler items and you can still get fast shipping when you order by the Christmas Shipping Deadlines .
13. Shop online successfully. If you’re following the Friday series, you’re one step ahead of the game by signing up for cash back programs . In addition, last year I gave Ten Tips for Holiday Shopping Online , which is a great reminder this time of year.
14. Get creative. I like to make contributions for college savings accounts. If you plan to open an account for a niece, nephew, or other special person in your life, why not sign up now and get the $25 bonus . I’m planning to open another account for our niece so my $25 spent will look like a $50 gift!
Stay tuned for more detailed tips and my favorite shopping extravaganza, Black Friday!
What are you doing to prepare for holiday shopping?