Too many people find themselves, at the last minute, frantically trying to finish up their holiday shopping.

Once you are down to the wire, it's easy to get careless. You stop comparison shopping and just buy the first thing you see that will fit the bill. You might also find yourself stuck paying a high price for something due to scarcity as the holiday in question approaches -- especially if you are looking for a popular toy for your child.

Rather than get stuck in this position, it's a good idea to do your holiday shopping early.

You'll get the best deals, spread out your spending, and feel less stress during the season.

Shop online, and you'll likely find yourself spending even less money, and avoiding the holiday crowds to boot.

How Early Should You Start Shopping?

How early you start shopping is up to you. My husband and I shop for holiday gifts throughout the year. We know who we will be buying for. If we see something that fits the bill on sale, even if it is in March, we purchase it. We've had my son's holiday gifts all squared away since the end of the summer.

Think about who is on your list, and what they are likely to want. Keep an eye out for sales and good deals. The reality is that holiday season sales aren't always that great. With a little effort, the help of daily deal sites, and online promo codes, you can get similar prices throughout the year.

The hype surrounding holiday season sales is often just that: Hype.

Early shopping also works well for decor. We often buy decor during after-holiday sales, when everything is discounted. If we buy cards, decor, and wrapping paper, it happens in January, when those items are on clearance. Since we collect novelty tree ornaments, my husband starts shopping for those during the summer, and he looks online. We get a number of great deals on eBay during July. We've seen the prices double, or even triple, once the holiday shopping season is in full swing.

Shopping throughout the year gives us a chance to spread out the cost as well.

Rather than a huge expenditure at once, it's smaller amounts throughout the year. This makes the whole thing more manageable. If you don't shop throughout the year, at least save up money each month with the goal of using it during the holidays. That way your budget is prepared for the expense.

Shop Online

You can save a lot online. Not only can you save money, but you can also save in terms of time and hassle. You don't have to fight the crowds at the store; all of your purchases are delivered right to your door. We love the convenience of shopping online.

This is especially true during the holiday season when you can usually find free shipping promos. FreeShipping.org can help you send gifts to people all over the country -- without paying the shipping costs.

Plan out your shopping early, and use the Internet and you won't have to worry nearly as much about over-spending.

How do you save money on holiday shopping?

 

Miranda Marquit, guest personal finance expert and blogger for leading provider of debt relief, careone services, inc.Miranda Marquit

Miranda is a freelance writer and professional blogger, specializing in topics related to personal finance and business. Her work has appeared in, and been linked to from, a variety of publications, online and offline. Miranda blogs for a number of web sites, and has her own personal finance blog, Planting Money Seeds