NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- The weather outside might not yet be frightful, but thinking about the holiday gift giving season might be enough to make most people wish fall would last forever.
The leaves might not yet have fallen, but it is time to start thinking about holiday gift giving, savings experts say.
According to Statistic Brain, an organization that compiles statistics from various sources, Americans last year spent $52 billion in 2011 between Nov. 1 and Dec. 16. Internet Retailer predicts that just online holiday shopping will be up by 16% this year.
But why wait for Black Friday or Cyber Monday when there are great deals to be had right now?We talked to savings experts who came up with 10 ways you can save on holiday shopping now: Make a list, check it twice: Jane DeLaney, founder of budgeting website eMeals.com, says one of the most important first steps is to know who is on your list. "Don't give into the pressure to give to everyone," DeLaney says. "Choose a list of people that you will get gifts for and don't stray from this list. It's important you are giving from the heart, and not just from what you feel pressured into doing." A drop in the bucket: You should also know what you have to work with in terms of budgeting for the people on your list. Once you have the budget on paper, DeLaney says, "Don't go over it. It's simple; if you can't afford it, don't buy it."
It's all about the kids: There's no doubt that the season of giving is mostly about the kids, but DeLaney says that having a room packed full of presents may not be as meaningful. "Overspending and overbuying just leads to each gift not meaning as much and a sense of overindulgence," DeLaney says. "I've heard some parents say they just give three gifts to each child on Christmas. Many compare it to the three gifts brought to Jesus by the wise men and then go through the true Christmas story as part of their tradition after opening their gifts. What a fun and meaningful way to celebrate Christmas morning." Spend what you save: If you're using coupons for other savings on groceries and other things, what is happening to the money you save? Most people don't know. Jon Lal, founder of BeFrugal.com says, "When you use coupons, put the money you've saved aside and use it for Christmas gift buying." There's an app for that: The great thing for shoppers about living in this time in history is that you don't have to manually look for items on your gift list to make sure they aren't on sale that day. Shopping apps for your portable devices are a great way to keep track of the items on your gift list, says Trae Bodge, senior editor at RetailMeNot.com.
Santa has the Internet: Another great tool is deal sites, which have offers for companywide sales at various retailers online and off, Bodge says. Gift cards aren't just for gifts: If you've bought gift cards, you probably already know there are discount gift cards that can save you anywhere from 12% to 30%. What you may not realize is that you don't have to give those cards as gifts. "It's called a "gift card" but that doesn't mean you have to give it away," says Shelly Hunter, founder of Gift Card Girlfriend, who says she buy discount gift cards regularly to use for her own shopping. The gift that keeps on giving: Admit it. You have a gift card in your purse or wallet that you got for the holidays last year or for your birthday. You have no idea what to do with it, but you know someone who would like something from that company. Use that gift card to buy a gift for someone else who would appreciate it or use it to buy another gift card from the same company, says Hunter. Santa's workshop: If you're crafty, now is the time to start thinking of making gifts, which could save you a bundle, DeLaney says "Many times these end up making more of an impression than the coffee mug you picked up for your Aunt Rita." It's never too early to think about food: While you can't buy food that will spoil before the holidays, you can start buying staples for your holiday meal now that are on sale, says Teri Gault, founder of The Grocery Game. "Plan your Christmas menu around the best deals each week. These are usually the biggest picture on the front of the sales circular," Gault says. "If it's something you could use for your Christmas meal, buy it now, as you gather the best of the best deals over time. Let the sales build your menu over the course of the coming weeks."