Shop Smart, Shop Now for the Holidays

by April Lewis-Parks

OK, I realize that the blazing July sun is probably beating down on you, and that Christmas and the winter holidays seem very far away, but we urge you to start thinking about the 2012 Holiday season. You can save a ton of money and cut down on your January bills by doing some advance planning, rather than waiting until November when the retailers really sock it to you.

Fundamentally, the idea is to find things that are cheap or free all year around. By stockpiling these items, you will be ready for Christmas without the last minute shopping stresses and hopefully do so at a fraction of the cost.

Begin by making a list of the people that you expect to purchase gifts for and don’t forget to plan on buying a couple of generic gifts that can be customized for teachers, pastors, and anyone else you decide to share the holidays with. Next to each persons name list sizes, hobbies, and interests then brainstorm. Decide whether the gift will be homemade or store bought and how much you are going to spend.

Try purchasing at least one gift for per week until all of your purchases have been made. Store each gift in the box with gift-wrap and either make or fill out a Christmas card when the gift is purchased.  Keep track of what gifts have been and haven’t been purchased on your list.

If you have kids on your list to buy for, get clothing items one size larger than the child is now. The trick here is not to buy trendy or character items that might be “out” by next year. I have found that stores like Target will have some tremendous markdowns on out of season apparel.

Make a point to check out all clearance shelves every time you go into a store. You never know what they might be trying to clear out. Make jams and jellies in summer when fruit is cheap. These also make great hostess or “emergency” gifts.

With a little bit of patience and effort you will not only have some great gifts to give during the holidays, but you will be giving yourself the best present of all – peace of mind when the credit card bill comes in.