Be smart about holiday shopping: start now

I spent my morning waiting in line for a new store opening in my area. Crazy? Obsessive? A tad out of control? You might think. But more than 1,000 other people did not think that it was so crazy, so I was in good company.

While this store opening was a big news for my region, it only kicks off the holiday season of insane shopping. Being a self proclaimed savvy shopper, here are a few tips to keep your sanity, maintain your safety and score some good deals.

  • Make a list. And check it twice. And most importantly, plan a budget for overall Christmas, as well as a budget for each individual person on your list. The best way to avoid overspending is to have a plan and know what you want. Make a list of every one you plan to buy a present for this holiday season. Gather wish lists from the kids and other present ideas. Narrow down specific ideas on what you want to purchase before you hit the stores. Making a plan and sticking to it is the only way to make your budget work and your shopping under control. Item not on your list, put it down.
  • Get more bang for your buck. The holiday season is lined with retailers who offer deep discounts to entice customers. As a savvy shopper, you can take advantage of those steep discounts and come out on top. Compare ads, use coupons and figure out ways to get discounts on almost all of your presents, as well as the food for the festivities. My two favorite sites are and Find a deal site or blog and follow it regularly for tips on how to maximize coupons and get deals like free shipping if you order online. Bonus tip: follow a deal website on Facebook for exclusive and up-to-date status on deals.
  • Shop online. This is the way to do all of your Christmas and holiday shopping without ever leaving your couch. You do not even have to get dressed. While I love the feel of holiday stores, my dad would never step into a store if he didn’t have to. Which is why UPS makes almost a daily stop at my parent’s house during the month of December. Almost all retailers have online shopping. Amazon also has flash deals throughout the holidays offering significant discounts on your most wanted Christmas presents. Move fast on big ticket items to ensure it won’t sell out. And deals websites will consistently post online deals and free shipping codes. If you are lucky, you can do all of your shopping in your underwear.
  • Become a Black Friday pro. Shopping the sales on  Black Friday are not for the faint of heart. You must go early, wait in line in the cold morning and be assertive to get what you want. Sadly, many people put sales over safety and people have been trampled. Just remember: you don’t want to have to use your health insurance plans because you got in a fist fight with another shopper over a video game. No matter how cheap it is.