Your Guide To Getting Ahead on Holiday Shopping

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Every year, you have the intention of not waiting until the last minute to do holiday shopping, and every year, you somehow find yourself looking for last-minute deals and paying extra for overnight shipping. Retailers and online sites, however, have made it very easy for you to start that shopping early.

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While Black Friday traditionally kicked off the holiday shopping season, no more. From Amazon with its early Prime Days to other retailers advertising Black Friday specials weeks before Thanksgiving weekend, deals abound for the early birds. Besides taking advantage of the specials, here are a few tips you can follow to make sure you’re not missing out on the top gifts this year.

Stop Putting Off Shopping

It might seem obvious, but for the hottest items — especially the season’s must-have toy — demand outpaces supply. That means there’s never going to be a better time to start shopping for your gift list than right now.

Make Your Money Work for You

Stores are trying to beat the competition and bring in as much revenue as possible. Take advantage of those sales. There’s no guarantee that prices will keep decreasing as the holiday season goes on. The only thing that will be decreasing for certain is the number of items you’ll be able to choose from. 

Set a Budget

Holiday shopping is easier with a road map: a list and a budget. Make sure you take a close look at your income and bills and make a gift budget based on what would be comfortable for you. You don’t have to go into debt to create a memorable holiday. Financial advisors recommend spending no more than 1.5% of your annual income on holiday presents. For households earning $100,000 a year, that’s $1,500.

Figure out how much holiday spending fits into your budget and make a list of the people you’d like to give a gift. If your budget doesn’t stretch far enough to cover everyone of the list, come up with gift alternatives. Instead of exchanging gifts with each co-worker, suggest drawing names and giving one present, or organize a potluck at someone’s house and share food and friendship by the Christmas tree in lieu of gifts. You and your friends will remember that evening much longer than another trinket you received.

Make Your Money Work for You

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Check Out Coupon Sites & Apps

Coupons aren’t just scraps of paper you have to scour through junk mail to find anymore. There are a ton of easily accessible apps and browser extensions that can you help you save money instantly. RetailMeNot is a website available as a browser extension and an app that gives you current discount codes. On the app, you can search for the item or brand you’re shopping for, and RetailMeNot will give you a discount code if it’s available. When you install the browser extension, RetailMeNot will automatically alert you if the store you’re shopping from has current codes. Other browser extensions include Honey and Capital One Shopping, and the latter also will give you a percentage back on your purchases at participating retailers.

CouponFollow delivers promo codes for big savings — sometimes up to 70% off. CouponFollow also offers the Cently browser extension, which applies corresponding promo codes every time you check out. Sites like DealNews show you the latest sales going on, so before you do your shopping, checking out their site will show you how to get the most bang for your buck. 

Make Your Money Work for You

Go With Gift Cards

Though it might not be the most personal gift, a gift card will allow your family and friends to select just what they want. Some retailers and restaurants even offer a bonus gift card this time of year. Sites like GiftCardDeal will offer gift cards for some brands at a discounted rate, so you can buy a $100 certificate for $60 in some cases.

If you’re looking for specific stores, Gift Card Granny maintains a list of stores offering discounts on gift cards. If you want a particular experience to gift someone, Groupon offers deals on massages, events and sightseeing tours. These can especially come in clutch if you know someone you’re getting a gift for is going on vacation and you’d like to treat them to something special at their destination. 

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Sam DiSalvo contributed to the reporting for this article.