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Christmas Prices Come Early This Year

As any child waiting for Christmas can tell you, it can’t seem to come soon enough. Though children will have to wait until December 25th, shoppers looking for lower prices from holiday sales will get their wish.

Citing expectations of weak holiday sales and a desire by consumers to spread holiday spending over a longer period of time, big-box retailer Wal-Mart announced that it would be cutting prices on certain toys at thousands of its stores. Its in-store Christmas Shops, featuring seasonal decorations and accessories, will also be opening earlier this year. Other retailers are expected to follow suit.

Spreading inevitable costs over a longer time period is actually a smart approach for many consumers, particularly in the current economic climate. When costs are concentrated in a short timeframe, such as the mere 27 shopping days between Thanksgiving and Christmas, people are more likely to use credit cards. The interest and fees associated with using credit cards and store charge cards can add significantly to the cost of purchases.

The key word about the economic sense of spreading costs to save money is inevitable. The economic state in our country is depressed, to say the least. As a result, many families will need to make a conscious effort to spend less this holiday season. Surely, Christmas is one time of year where we often allow ourselves to indulge and spend more on wants than needs, but reevaluating what it will take to make the holidays a “success” may help to rebalance your wants versus super-wants in terms of giving and receiving gifts.

Getting a good deal, spreading costs over a longer period and avoiding the impending crowds are all great ideas. But if starting your shopping early just gives you more time to spend, you may end up worse off. Consider making your shopping lists early, keep them small (or at least within your planned budget), make purchases when good prices present themselves, and avoid the temptation to allow your list to grow as the holidays approach. Also, be sure to watch for online-only discounts and Internet coupons to get the best deals.

When do you start your holiday shopping? Are economic circumstances forcing you to cut back on holiday spending this year?

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