How to Beat the Holiday Season Rush and Save Your Wallet

It may seem too early to start tackling your holiday gift list, but experts say getting a head start will save you a lot of stress -- and money.

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Holiday Shopping
Matt Rourke/AP
By Kate Rogers

It may be the season of pumpkin spice lattes as the leaves start to change, but the holiday shopping rush isn't far off. And while it might seem too early to start tackling your gift list, experts say getting a head start can help keep your budget intact.

According to the National Retail Federation, holiday sales are expected to increase 3.9 percent to $602.1 billion in November and December.

The increase is slightly higher than 2012's 3.5 percent rise in sales, and the forecast is also above the 10-year average of 3.3 percent growth. The NRF forecast is an economic model blending consumer confidence, consumer credit, disposable personal income and monthly retail sales releases.

Brian Hoyt, vice president of communications and senior writer at RetailMeNot.com, says this season's spending increase is nominal, but the company is also seeing average spending on the uptick, at about $160 per person this year. The shopping season itself is also being stretched out longer over the months leading up to the holidays.

"Use that time to your advantage," Hoyt says. "Spread out your purchases so you don't have them all bunched in November and December in just two or three pay cycles."

Shopping deals come in waves, Hoyt says, with the first deals rolling out in September and October on apparel.

"There will be a lot of deals especially in apparel due to this year's weaker back-to-school shopping period," he says. "You can take advantage of layaway programs early on. Especially if your child wants a specific toy, as they tend to sell out early."

After the clothing sales, retailers will start slashing prices on electronics, Hoyt says, starting around Thanksgiving. In fact, shopping on Thanksgiving Day can yield even greater savings for consumers, RetailMeNot has found.

"Consumers save more when they shop on that day than even on Black Friday and Cyber Monday," he says. "There are big door buster deals, to entice consumers to come off their couch and into the store."

The final sale phase is in early December, closer to Christmas, Hoyt says. "This is when 'stocking stuffers' go on sale, mainly accessories to go along with the consumer electronics."

Finally, RetailMeNot is predicting this season will have an even greater emphasis on mobile shopping than seasons past to allow consumers to get their shopping done from anywhere and anytime.


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