Shoppers have already seen the packages of Christmas tree ornaments edging their way into displays of Batman costumes. Patricia O’Gara, who works in a Chestertown, New York retail shop, said her store has been busy unloading the holiday stock since September, “People are already buying the Christmas merchandise.”
Earlier this month, the National Retail Federation (NRF) released its annual consumer survey on planned holiday spending. The survey revealed that the average shopper plans to spend $749.51 on gifts, decorations and greeting cards this year. Last year, the average shopper spent $740.57 on holiday purchases.
While the economic news shows the country slowly recovering from the recession, family budgets are still tight with increased energy and foods costs sapping up incomes. Black Friday — the day after Thanksgiving that is recognized by retailers as the launch of the annual holiday shopping spree — is a few weeks away, but shopping even earlier can help consumers stick to their budget.
The majority of shoppers’ budget, according to the NRF survey, will go towards gifts with a $423 budget for family and about another $100 on co-workers and friends. Consumers that jump into the shopping season early, and follow a game plan, can get more for their money and spend the pre-holiday weeks sipping eggnog with the knowledge they have their holiday shopping all wrapped up.
How to save with gift cards
Gift cards are an easy gift but not very personalized, often picked out in last-minute “I don’t know what to buy” desperation. Rather than giving gift cards, purchase discount gift cards from sites such as Gift Card Granny and use them to purchase gifts. This requires advanced planning but the Halloween Christmas shopper has time.
Check credit card reward programs. Cards such as Discover offer cardholders discounted gift cards that may be purchased with cash back bonuses. Many grocery and drugstore chains offer loyalty cards that give discounts to customers based on purchases. Shop these stores for gift cards and build up credit for future shopping.
How to save online shopping
Register with online shopping sites rather than shop as a guest. You want the store to have your email address so they can send you bargains. If you don’t want your regular inbox cluttered with a lot of promotions, set up a separate shopping email address, Yahoo and Gmail are both free.
When you find items you wish to purchase, put them in the shopping cart and leave the page, don’t follow through with checkout. Within a day, you will find offers of discounts and free shipping in your email.
Before finalizing an online purchase, do an internet search for promotion codes. Most large retailers regularly run free-shipping and discount promotions. Entering the name of the store and the words “Promotion codes” in your search engine will yield some savings.
Procrastinators that wait until Thanksgiving to start holiday shopping can plan their Black Friday strategy ahead of time by studying pre-sale flyers. Large retailers, such as Walmart and Toys R Us, release holiday sale information in October so shoppers may plan ahead. Trending toys go quickly, so get them early to avoid disappointment.
It may be hard to get into the holiday spirit when the spirits of the day are ghosts and zombies, but shopping early can net savings that will make for a happy New Year when leaner credit card bills arrive in the mail.