As of today, October 7, 2010, there are 77 days until Christmas (if you celebrate Hanukah, Kwanza or Festivus you don’t have too much longer either). It’s time to start planning, so you don’t go broke doing your shopping.
In 2009 the average American household spent $417 on Christmas shopping. When money is already tight, $417 can really make a difference. There are a few simple things you can do to try to keep a cap on your spending and not begin 2011 in the hole.
1. Make a list now. Sit down and figure out who is getting gifts. (This one here  from Real Simple magazine is pretty basic if you don’t want to create your own.) If the list is lengthy discuss with your family drawing names or doing a sort of Secret Santa arrangement. If you are comfortable ask your friends if you all could skip doing gifts this year and spend some extra time together instead. Talk to your spouse and maybe this year skip gifts to each other.
2. Take that list and give it a dollar amount. Harness the power of the internet and find out how much each item on your list will be. Or, if you are a frugal shopper, set the price you are willing to pay for the item. That way when you become overwhelmed by the sales, you know what price you are looking for.
3. Make sure you have the cash. I am a BIG fan of not having credit cards. Make a goal this year to only pay cash for items (that means on-line shopping with the debit card, not credit). Since you are starting your shopping now, you should be able to spread it out over the next little bit and not have to go into debt for the holidays. If you know there is no way you can afford the gifts you want to give without going into debt, it might be time to revise the list with some less expensive items.
4. Make a home for your receipts. Receipts are a huge part of holiday giving. Sizes change, colors might be a bit off or what you thought was the perfect gift could be completely wrong. Be sure to have everything in one place where it can not be lost. Also, if you buy something now and then it goes on sale later, you might be able to take the receipt to the store and get some cash back!
Over the next few days, I will share some of the websites I love to use when I shop. Each of these can help you save valuable time and money as you prepare.
Let’s make it a great, frugal holiday!