Early holiday shopping can save you stress and money

by Orion Ludlow, KATU News

If you haven’t started your Christmas and holiday shopping yet, you’re already behind.

Experts from RetailMeNot say people are starting to shop for the holidays earlier and earlier, and for a few different reasons.

“Number one, it’s less of a hit to your wallet,” says Sara Skirboll, RetailMeNot’s shopping and trend expert. “If you’re spacing out your purchases, that means that you’re not necessarily going to get a huge bill come January because you made all your holiday purchases in December.”

“The other good news about spreading out your holiday shopping is less stress,” says Skirboll. “No one wants to be stressed out looking for gifts on December 20th or 21st.”

Over the last few years, consumers have been completing their holiday shopping right around December 1st. Last year, 60 percent of people said they’d be done with their shopping by Black Friday weekend.

But this year, only 25 percent say they’ll be done that early.

Skirboll recommends a shopping strategy: create a list, create a budget, and then start looking for deals. Some of those deals might be right now.

“The good news is that while you don’t necessarily see holiday sales, you are still seeing sales, so there’s lots of friends and family opportunities right now,” says Skirboll.

That means 20 to 25 percent off on some things that might be on your list — like apparel and shoes, which are hot gifts this year. Skirboll says if you find them for the right price, get them.

“If you see a deal right now, I strongly recommend you pick up an item that you might need to buy for your loved ones, because the fact of the matter is those items might not exist in a couple of months,” advises Skirboll.

But if you’re shopping for electronics, you should wait for Black Friday. That’s when you’ll find many of the best deals of the year. And you don’t necessarily have to fight the crowds and battle the cold to get those deals in stores, unless you want to.

“You don’t necessarily have to get up at 4 a.m. and fight the crowds,” she says. “You can still do electronics shopping, TVs, cellphones, headphones, ear bugs, Apple watches, from the comfort of your own couch, in your pajamas.”

And since electronics are so in-demand for gifts this year, expect to have a substantial holiday bill when it’s all said and done. The Portland area is predicted to be slightly above the $800 national average for holiday shopping expenses, which follows the national trend of people along the east and west coasts spending more than people in the heartland.

“People are going to spend more than they did last year, about $60 more,” says Skirboll. “And the majority of people are going to be spending the majority of their money on kids.”

The average shopping list (in descending order): Kids, significant others, parents/in-laws, best friends, and siblings. Teachers and postal workers even make some lists.

Skirboll’s final advice: always compare prices from in-store, to online. RetailMeNot.com and the RetailMeNot app have online coupons that could save you big bucks.

“Never check out without getting a deal, whether it’s a coupon code, a free shipping code, or a cashback offer,” says Skirboll. “I always say, don’t spend money unless you’re saving money at the same time. And people are getting savvier and savvier when it comes to shopping, so you’re going to see a lot of great deals out there, starting now.”