According to an article in today's USA Today, this year's holiday shopping season is shaping up to be vastly different from 2008's last-minute discount free-for-all. According to Jayne O'Donnell's article, retailers will be taking a more measured approach. Instead of deep December sales, stores will be offering earlier, less drastic deals. So even though it's not even officially autumn yet, savvy shoppers should start thinking sooner rather than later about Santa.
Shopping early has its own pitfalls, however. If you buy a gift in September, the recipient won't be able to return or exchange it in January. Although stores do extend their typical two-week or 30-day return policies into January, the extension usually only applies to purchases made after November 1.
As always, it pays to get organized before you get caught up in the holiday frenzy. Like Santa says, "Make a list and check it twice." Keep track of what you've bought and when you bought it (to take advantage of post-purchase price-match guarantees). Set a spending limit, and think about using cash or debit to avoid big credit-card bills later. Gift cards will likely be big again as well. See our report on gift cards for buying tips.
Stay tuned to Productopia as the holidays grow closer. We'll be analyzing Black Friday circulars to find if advertised deals are worth waiting for.