You may have noticed some online retailers do “Christmas in July” to stimulate early purchases for the holiday season. People who don’t want to wait until the last minute to get their stocking stuffers love this. For example, Amazon featured two Prime days in July, while other retailers like Walmart offer their own early deals. Brick-and-mortar retailers like JCPenney have also started promoting early holiday sales.
It can help to have a holiday gift guide for spending and budgeting. Continue reading below for some tips on how to get started early.
Make key holiday budget decisions now.
Decide how much you have to spend, who will get gifts and set an amount for each person. These numbers will serve as the foundation of your holiday spending budget. This is important because once you hit those numbers, you’ve probably finished most of your Christmas shopping. This will save you money on gift-giving when the holidays arrive.
Keep a firm budget in writing. Base your budget on a reasonable amount for each person you plan to gift. Focus on what you can afford rather than what you think will impress or please your recipient.
Once you have a number in mind, start brainstorming great gift ideas for friends and family. Make a list so you can base your summer deal shopping around those items. After all, you want to get your loved ones something they’ll be excited to get instead of simply what’s on sale. Sometimes during deal shopping you can come across a holiday gift idea you hadn’t considered. These may be tempting, but it’s best to stick to your list if these items are beyond the reach of your budget, especially so far ahead of the holidays.
Research all deals first.
Determine whether these promotions will actually save you money or whether the deals are all hype. Shop around to see what others are charging for those products before assuming it’s a great deal. You don’t want to fall victim to the “fear of missing out” syndrome that is so often evoked in digital media by clever retail marketing.
Use online tools to check whether you’re getting the best prices and deals. For example, CamelCamelCamel is a free Amazon price tracker. It can create a price history on any Amazon product to see if the Prime deal is really the best around, or if other retailer sites offer better deals. The price check tool also lets you create price drop alerts. This can help you know when it’s best to buy those Christmas gifts. You can also add their browser extension to further track deals.
Consider layaway an option.
Sometimes the perfect gift costs a lot. Consider layaway plans if you’re thinking about purchasing big ticket items for your loved ones. Even popular gadgets and other tech gifts fall into this category. Aim to have them paid off before the holidays.
These plans let you make a down payment on an item and then make regular payments without incurring interest. Your item stays in the store until you pay it off. Keep in mind you may have to pay a small layaway or restocking fee. Find out what retailers offer such plans, including many online retailers that have adopted this payment option. There are general merchandise, clothing, furniture, and jewelry store choices that offer layaway plans. These can help you budget for the holidays more effectively by starting early.
Other stores like Big Lots have a plan that is similar to layaway called “Price Hold,” mostly used for furniture purchases. They also have a Progressive Leasing program available in some stores. Other financing options include Amazon’s store card, which works like a revolving charge card and comes with some discounts. QVC offers Easy Pay, which is similar to layaway. However, you’ll need to have a credit card or Qcard to qualify.
Don’t forget: mindful spending is key.
Just because the holidays are about giving doesn’t mean you should spend too much time or money all the way through December. Instead, avoid buying last-minute gifts and thoughtfully consider strategies for starting gift shopping early. By starting early and staying on plan, you’ll also stay on budget.
You’ll do something good for your wallet and while also making loved ones feel good during this special time of year.
John Boitnott has been writing for TV, print, radio and internet companies for 25 years. He’s written for BusinessInsider, Fortune, NBC, Fast Company, Inc., Entrepreneur and Venturebeat, among others.
Feature Illustration: Laura Caseley For The Money Manual