It’s That time of year again..

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It all starts on July 5th.. Yep.. Christmas Shopping Season!

What? You haven’t started yet? I could swear I’ve seen displays up in the stores with Santa wearing a Jimmy Buffet style shirt and shorts.  As part of our approach, we’ve started the Christmas Saving back in January and then start shopping when we see the good deals.  Using Direct Deposit and an Account at ING Direct (not affiliate link) we’re able to pretty easily stash some cash aside for Christmas.

ING (now part of Capital One) has a very nice system for setting up Savings accounts for free.  Once you have your initial account set up, you can setup up Goal Oriented accounts in less than 5 minutes.  We use this for our Christmas Fund, Emergency Savings Fund and soon our 25th Wedding Anniversary Trip Fund.

According to the American Research Group, Inc,  Shoppers around the country say they are planning to spend an average of $646 for gifts this holiday season.  Seem like a lot?  Well, this amount is down from $658 last year.

How about some ways to save?

Use Cash back cards.

Yes, we still use Credit Cards and pay it off each month.  Our CitiCard gives us ‘points’ that we use to redeem for PrePaid Card.  Many times we’ll use this for special occasions, gifts for Christmas (don’t tell our kids) or even just buying groceries.  We’ll probably stop redeeming points for a while to save up for our Anniversary Trip, and redeem them for the trip.

Shop Around

Like the old song goes “You better shop around”.  These days there are a great number of shopping comparison services available.  Google’s Shopping engine does a fair job of comparing based on your location (for local options) as well as other on-line retailers.

Draw Names

This is essential if you have a large family.  My wife’s side of the family has 24 people in it.  That can get down right ‘spensive!  For years we’ve split the generations where the adults choose names for other adults, and the cousins (some aren’t children any more) choose names from among their group.  If you’re looking to save some money this year, consider this option.

 Ask for a Discount

Smaller retailers may be more willing to negotiate if you offer cash.  Remember, they have to pay a transaction fee for your credit card purchase.  Use that as a negotiating point.  The retailer gets the sale and the same amount of profit, and you can save some money as well.

Shop Early

I was kidding earlier about Christmas in July (we all know it started in June) but there’s still the notion of shopping for next year.  Yes, there’s an issue of storage, and if it involves clothing and kids, you must consider the growth.  But for other items, getting them after Christmas could save a bundle.

What about you?  Have you started thinking of Christmas presents yet?  Doing something different?

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