When Should you Start your Holiday Shopping?

Now is the time to get a jump on this year's holiday shopping.
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Mom and daughter shopping for Christmas presents.

Halloween promos may be front and center right now, but that doesn't mean it's too early to start thinking about the holiday season. Last year, Jacob Lumby of Cash Cow Couple wrapped up his Christmas shopping in July.

"Over time, I've learned that there are great deals to be had all the time, and you want to buy when those deals happen," says Lumby, who's also a Slickdealer. "Most people tend to wait either until the last minute or when there's a large sale, like in November."

Instead, Lumby advises keeping the holidays in the back of your mind all year long. Major shopping events that take place earlier in the year, like Memorial Day and Labor Day, can be great times to snag must-have gift items at rock-bottom prices. If he gets an idea in March for a gift item a family member would love to open on Christmas morning, he sets a Deal Alert and keeps his ear to the ground for a low price.

Of course, not all of us are this savvy. The good news is that even if you haven't started yet, there's still time to get a jump on this year's holiday shopping. The truth is that there are plenty of upcoming opportunities to save.

Ready to dominate the season like a pro? Read on for the money-saving tips you can't afford to miss.

Make a List (and Budget) And Check it Twice

Ever go grocery shopping on an empty stomach? Or without a shopping list? If so, chances are high that your purchases were more impulsive than you would have liked. To curb your overspending, it's best to make a plan before ever stepping foot in a store.

When it comes to holiday shopping, determine roughly how much you want to spend on each person — then start mining for deals. "If you're planning on spending $30 per person, that $30 will go a lot further when items are marked 90 percent off," says Lumby.

Another way to stretch your money is to consider an all-cash system, especially since there's loads of research suggesting that we're more likely to overspend when using a credit card. This is something I've incorporated into my own holiday shopping approach. With two young children at home, my husband and I started our "Christmas envelope" back in June. We've gradually been tossing small bits of cash in there after each pay check. The result? By the end of this month, we'll have reached our money goal for the season, which is going to make gift-buying so much less stressful.

If you have a rewards or cash back card that will get you an ever better deal, by all means use it. But use your saved up cash to pay off the balance right away so you don't end up paying interest on it.

While I have a pretty good idea of the types of gifts my kids will like, you may be at a loss as to what to buy for friends and family. Consider creating a Pinterest board and inviting them to pin their wish lists. After that, set Deal Alerts and wait for the prices to drop.

Keep Major Sales Cycles in Mind

There are a handful of sales events throughout the year where prices reach crazy-low levels. For example, major appliances are deeply discounted around Memorial Day. This holiday is also an ideal time to pick up tools, which are usually marked down to the tune of 40 percent off.

Similarly, Labor Day is known for showcasing charcoal grills for 40 to 50 percent off. The same goes for small consumer electronics like digital cameras, which are also majorly marked down at the end of summer.

If you're just getting started on your holiday shopping, keep your eye on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. This is hands down the best time to cross electronics off your list. Retailers know this and are kicking off Black Friday deals earlier than ever before. Last year, Lumby hit up his local Walmart on Thanksgiving evening and snagged a 50-inch LED television for just over $200. "Walmart also has a guarantee where if you get to the store within a one-hour or two-hour time frame, you can either get the item right then and pay for it, or you get a guarantee voucher that it comes something like four weeks later," he adds.

Generally speaking, Consumer Reports says that November and December are the best times of year to pick up TVs, toys, baby products, gas grills, bikes, camcorders and more. Last year, Slickdeals reported deals like Asus laptops for $99 and 65-inch Vizio LED Smart HDTVs for $648.

To get the most bang for your buck with travel, apparel and toys, consider making purchases on Cyber Monday. Not only will you have zero crowds to deal with, you'll also score deep discounts.

Another baller move is to knock out some of your holiday shopping during tax-free holiday weekends. (Click here to get the details on your state.)

Finagle Free Shipping Year Round

Whether you're holiday shopping in April or November, nothing busts a well-thought-out budget like shipping fees. Fortunately, there are ways around this hurdle. If there's a spending minimum to qualify for free shipping, try bundling your purchases.

According to Daily Finance, you can also eliminate shipping fees with some retailers by opting to order and pick up items in-store. Another great strategy is to open the site's live chat feature and simply ask for free shipping. Surprisingly, a lot of merchants will say yes just to close the deal.

Regardless of when you begin your holiday shopping, the biggest takeaway here is that it's never too early to start saving. Stop by our Christmas page for the latest holiday deals and coupons. And don't forget to run items through our Price Tracker to find the best bargains.

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Image courtesy of ©iStock.com/ArtMarie

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About the Author
Marianne Hayes Contributor

Marianne Hayes is a freelance writer, wife and mother in Tampa Bay. After earning a degree in journalism and creative writing from the University of Central Florida, she spent nearly a decade getting lost in New York City and Los Angeles before making her way back home again in 2014. Marianne's writing has appeared in a variety of publications including The Huffington Post, Forbes.com, LearnVest, The Daily Beast and more. When she's not writing, Marianne is usually cruising her local bookstore with her two daughters.

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