Early holiday shopping can help you budget better

(ARA) - The economy this holiday season is still uncertain, so it might be a good idea to holiday shop early, which can help you spread out expenses and find the best deals.

The holiday decorations have been up in stores since Labor Day. Retailers seem interested in helping you tackle your gift list, even if the bluebird is still flitting around your bird feeders and the only white stuff you've seen was in the snow cone you had at the Labor Day picnic.

Here are some reasons why you should start your holiday shopping early:

* Avoid crowds, lines and the general holiday craziness. You also can avoid the picked-over shelves, ensuring you have good-quality gifts to present to friends and family this year.

* Spread your payments out over several months, instead of receiving one large - and potentially unmanageable - bill in December or January.

* You'll have plenty of time to make sure the gifts are wrapped and shipped to arrive before the party.

* Be the first to purchase the "hot" gift of the season for any children on the list. Make sure you let everyone know that the item is off the table so they don't try to also purchase it.

Now that you've started putting together your idea list, here are some tips to help you find the best deals on those ideas:

* Get online and take advantage of websites dedicated to shopping. Try Fatwallet.com and its shopper forums to research the best deals. Use Ebates.com and its cash back shopping program to earn cash back on everything you buy over the holidays. The check will arrive just in time to help pay your bills. If you want, you can designate all or part of your cash back to a favorite charity to help get your holiday spirit started early. In addition you can go to AnyCoupons.com to find coupons on nearly anything you'll buy.

* Check out brand and product websites for upcoming news and promotions for specific items on your list. Since you've planned ahead, you can take advantage of these special promotions.

* Take the time to find unique stores that might not be available in your community. Use Ebates to find specialty stores and boutiques all across the country that may offer an item at a cheaper price than if you were to shop at a retail store that has to pay middleman prices.

aWhen you have your shopping wrapped up early, you'll be sure to thank yourself as you settle into the holiday season and enjoy the celebrations and activities, rather than stressing over making it to the mall for some last-minute gifts.