(BPT) - Thanksgiving comes late this year, which means a shorter-than-usual holiday shopping season. If you're not the type to buy gifts throughout the year, getting an early start on holiday shopping can help ensure you have enough time to find gifts for everyone on your list - and perhaps, most importantly, save money.
Here are three things to do now to save money and time this holiday season:
Create a list (and budget) for everyone on your list
Greet the holiday season with cheer by keeping an organized list of names of everyone you need to shop for and an estimated budget for each. From family and friends to hair stylists and teachers, more names will likely appear on your list than you originally planned. Holiday shopping can be overwhelming, but if you approach it with an organized plan, you're likely to avoid overspending and can better stick to your budget. Gift cards are a great option this year, since they are the top gift people want to give and receive according to a recent shopping survey from Discover.
Savvy shopping tip: Look into your credit card rewards programs to see if you can cash in your accumulated rewards for gift cards, some of which are offered at a discount. Redeeming rewards for store gift cards is one of the easiest and most valuable ways to save cash, which means you won't need to reach as deep into your pockets this season.
Do your research on sales and promotions
From gifts to groceries, holiday shopping includes a wide range of items, so it's important to try to find the best prices on everything. According to the survey, Americans are most influenced by sales and promotions when it comes to their holiday spending plans. In fact, 70 percent of consumers are planning to take advantage of Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals. Whether you're brave enough to face the crowds on Black Friday or prefer the convenience of Cyber Monday, shopping these big sales is a great way to stick to your budget and make a large dent in your holiday shopping list.
Doing your homework before making holiday purchases can also help you save even more. Price monitoring sites, like PriceGrabber, can compare and contrast prices for more than 1 million items, including electronics, appliances and clothing, and can be accessed right from your mobile device. If you're shopping online, your credit card may offer extra rewards on online purchases this season that'll help you save money on holiday gifts.
Savvy shopping tip: Mark your calendars with the dates of big sales and keep coupons in your wallet so you can use them at a moment's notice. If you're shopping online, do a quick search for coupon codes that provide extra discounts, as well as free shipping or gift wrap.
Use credit card benefits and rewards to save extra cash
Whether you prefer to shop in-store or online, credit cards can enhance your savings and provide added value to your shopping. Many credit card companies provide rebates, rewards and discounts on holiday essentials - at no added cost. Once the hustle and bustle of the season is over, you might find an item you want to return, but what happens if your purchase is no longer eligible? You won't have to write it off as a loss if the purchase was made with a credit card that offers a return guarantee. Discover cardmembers can return a qualifying item purchased with a Discover card within 90 days for a full refund up to $500 when the store will not accept it. These complimentary benefits can keep you feeling merry this holiday season. Plus, cardmembers can spread more cheer to their wallets by shopping online this season. Now through December, they can sign up to earn a 5 percent Cashback Bonus - up to a cool $75 - simply by shopping online with a Discover card for things like apparel, electronics, toys, gifts and more.
Savvy shopping tip: Use a credit card that provides added security and purchase protection including warranties and return guarantees that will help you save in the long run.
Taking a little extra time to shop smart and plan ahead will help you save and stay organized while shopping for holiday gifts and essentials. You may be surprised by how many resources are available to help stretch your budget further this holiday season.