How to Create an Early Holiday Shopping Budget

Taking just a little time now (even just an hour) can save you a lot of stress, money and time later on when you’d rather enjoy the holiday season. If that gets your attention, keep reading for a few easy, important tips to get organized now for a successful shopping season later.

Dig out last year’s shopping list. In today’s digital age, “digging out” last year’s shopping list is hopefully as easy as opening a saved file on your computer, tablet or smartphone. Take a look at who you shopped for last year and how much you spent. This can refresh your memory, help create a budget for this year and kick-start your new shopping list.

Create a budget. Knowing how much you spent on gifts last year is helpful, but you should also survey this year’s financial situation to see how much you can afford to spend. If you have a savings account for holiday shopping, check the balance. Also see what expenses are coming up and make sure you have a cushion for emergencies.

When creating a budget for the holidays, give yourself a spending limit for gifts and don’t forget to account for entertaining and party hosting, decorations and travel costs.

For even more control over your budget, you can narrow down a budget per person on your shopping list. If this is sounding like more lists than you know how to manage, you’ll want to check out the next tip.

Download a holiday planning app. Technology saves the day again: There are several helpful (and free) apps to help you plan, budget and organize the holiday season.

  • Santa’s Bag is a popular iOS app that gives you an easy and colorful platform for budgeting, planning and checking off the items on your list. You can create a total budget amount and an amount per person, and the app will automatically update your budgets when you tell it how much you spent. The app allows you to enter everything from your gift ideas to whether an item has been purchased and even wrapped.
  • For Android users, Christmas Gift List is a similar solution with the ability to track all your shopping, keep an overall and per person budget, and even archive lists so you can check back on previous years.

Prioritize your shopping. After you start your list, you might notice there are a few gifts that are more specific than others. Your wife might be hoping for a new cashmere sweater, but your daughter has that specific new smartphone in mind – plus, she’d love it in that hard-to-find color. For gifts that will fly off the shelves early, make a priority to get these first. Of course, waiting for the week of Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday will give you the best chance of finding a deal, but you may want to keep an eye out for savings starting now.

Note which gifts on your list need early attention and which ones are more generic or flexible that can wait until later.

Subscribe to stores and coupon websites. Now is the perfect time to get on the email lists of the stores where you know you’ll do most of your shopping. You’ll be first to know when they have flash sales or free shipping days. You can also follow the accounts of your favorite shops on social media for exclusive sales and promotions.

Subscribe to coupon and cash back websites and sign up for alerts now, and you’ll have all the best deals hitting your inbox directly – the perfect solution when you need an idea for the sibling who has everything.

See, that wasn’t too hard. Now that you spent a little time getting organized for the holidays, you can go back to enjoying fall. Here’s one last tip: Stock up on heavily discounted candy the day after Halloween and use it for delicious holiday dessert recipes next month. 

Source: Money.USNews.com