Carol Schroeder, author of "Specialty
Shop Retailing," suggests looking for "things
like stationery, soap or (nonperishable) holiday
foods or decorations. Those are things that anyone
can use and give you flexibility to use them as
hostess gifts or last-minute gifts."
If you prefer to make gifts instead
of buying them, get crafty now. "Who's got
time for that Dec. 15?" asks Foreman. By
starting early you can use evenings and odd moments
to actually finish your projects.
Do you prefer shopping from home instead of maneuvering
the malls? Take advantage of the catalogues that
are starting to trickle in, says P. Allen Smith
of P. Allen Smith Gardens.
"I've got my holiday bulbs ordered now, so when
they arrive Nov. 1, I can just start potting them up," says
Smith. "You can also get them started and give them as gifts."
It's a money-saver, too. In the
fall, amaryllis bulbs go for $2.50, says Kolls.
Buy them as blooming plants two months from now,
"and you've already kicked (the price) up
$30," she says.
Early mail-order and online shopping also allows you
to save on shipping. Buy at the last minute and you pay a premium
for shipping. Buy early and use the delivery method that is the
most economical, says Foreman.
Pick your plastic.
If you plan on charging your holiday purchases, choose the
credit card you want to use. "Negotiate a low interest rate
on it if you think you'll be carrying a balance," says Detweiler.
And if all of your credit cards are maxed out, take
control of your debt now rather than during the
"If you're having trouble," says Detweiler.
"Now is a good time to talk with a credit counseling agency."
your credit report.
Make sure the credit card you plan to use will
be accepted. One out of four credit
reports contains an error serious enough to
trigger a refusal of credit, according to a 2004
U.S. Public Interest Research Group study. "The
interest rate for holiday purchases is definitely
affected by your credit report," says Detweiler.
If you find a mistake, you'll have time to correct
it before the holidays.
the holiday table.
"There are so many ways to set a delicious table without
spending a lot of money," says Kolls. One of her favorites:
Get the makings for a table cloth from the cloth store bargain bin
or pick up an on-sale sheet with a cool design. Start ahead and
you'll have plenty of time to find something you like.
Also buy special groceries gradually. "If you're
the kind of family who likes baked goods, now's the time to stock
up on ingredients that won't spoil," says Foreman.
And ask yourself what you can cook ahead of the holiday
dinner and freeze, says Kolls. She uses this trick to help with
Christmas sugar cookies, a tradition with her family.