Simple Holiday Shopping tipsDidn’t last Christmas just end?  It feels like just yesterday I was trudging up the ladder and taking down our Christmas lights, but every store I walk into already has trees and giant inflatable decorations on display.

Retailers keep trying to kick off the holiday shopping season earlier and earlier…Walmart is already offering price rollbacks on thousands of items to lure early bird shoppers.

So as we gear up for another holiday season of frantic spending, now is good time to share some tips for keeping that spending under control.

Agree to a Spending Cap with Friends and Family

If you only have a handful of people to buy for then a spending cap may not be necessary, but if you have a large group of family and friends expecting gifts than you may want to come to an agreement on how much to spend on each person.

Or, you can pare down your gift list a little.  In my family, my sister and I don’t really exchange presents any more (except maybe a bottle of wine or something small) but we always buy for each other’s kids.

Set a Budget, and Stick to It!

It’s easy to get caught up in the holiday spirit and spend more than you realize.  You walk into the store to buy one specific item but there are so many great deals and sales that you just can’t pass them up.  Before you know it you’ve shot right past your spending budget and dug yourself into a big hole.

To avoid getting carried away with spending, set a strict budget and make sure you abide by it.  When you hit your limit, that’s it.  No more spending.  Use our holiday shopping budget calculator to help.

Black Friday Sales

I’m not a big fan of shopping in general and I usually try to avoid stores when they’re most crowded, but sometimes a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do to land a good deal.  Black Friday has become an annual ritual for millions of people looking to score deep discounts as retailers continuously try to one up each other.

I will never spend my Thanksgiving in a sleeping bag just to wait online outside some store no matter how good the deals get. But I am willing to hit the stores later in the day if there is a particularly good deal available.

Of course you can’t just wander in without a plan, so make sure you do your research ahead of time.  I like to consult BFAds.net in the days and weeks leading up to Black Friday so I can be sure I’m getting the best price on everything I buy.

Buy Online

Given my natural aversion to shopping, I usually prefer shopping online.  Why deal with traffic and long lines when I can shop at home in my pajamas and have everything I need shipped right to my front door?  Plus, when you shop online it’s easy to compare prices at different stores to be sure you get the best deal possible.  Make sure to locate online coupons before making any purchases.  Many stores will have awesome prices online just as they do in the stores.

Related: 5 Little Known Ways to Save on Amazon.com

Have you started your holiday shopping yet?  Do you have any money-saving tips to share?