Save Money: Shop Smart, Shop Now for the Holidays

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Early gift shopping can be good money management. Each year Americans make a mad dash to make their winter holiday season extra special. The experts at Consolidated Credit Counseling Services advise to get in holiday gear now to save money and avoid stress. End of summer specials and back to school sales can be a great time to buy holiday gifts to put away until December.

The blazing August sun may be beating down on you, but at Consolidated Credit Counseling Services we urge you to start thinking about the 2007 holiday season. You can save 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. This strategy can contribute to good money management.

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. Use Consoldiated Credit's free Holiday Survival Guide to help plan you shopping and gift giving.

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.

Here are a few tips to get you started:

Shop a year in advance. Winter sweaters and long pants go on sale in February. Shorts and t- shirts go on sale in July. Buy 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.

Shop the day after a holiday. Holidays such as Valentines Day, Christmas, Halloween, and Easter generally mark everything down 50% the next day in order to clear their shelves. This is a great time to stock up on candy, books, and stuffed animals. After Christmas is a great time to stock up on Christmas videos, tapes, books, jewelry, etc. (look for anything with a Christmas design and it will be half price).

Make a point to cruise past all the 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. Makes 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 January.

For more information on saving money, debt management, dealing with credit cards, and how to budget, please visit http://www.consolidatedcredit.org/.

Consolidated Credit Counseling Service's mission is to help people end financial crisis and solve money problems through education and professional counseling. Consolidated Credit is an industry leader that provides credit counseling and debt management services throughout the United States. Consolidated Credit is a non-profit agency that has helped thousands of individuals and families deal with life-altering credit, debt, and financial issues.

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