Americans are eager to open up their wallets this holiday season and start shopping for loved ones and friends. According to Deloitte’s annual holiday retail forecast consumer spending is expected to increase up to 9% this year.

Leigh Singleton, a financial educational expert with Monifi has advice for shoppers – this year, the sooner you start shopping, the better off you’ll be. There is a new slew of hiccups you can encounter due to supply chain and inventory issues that have impacted what is available and what is not across the retail sector, among others. 

To start the holiday shopping and  be successful, Singleton recommends Americans follow these easy steps to financially prepare for the holiday season:

>> Create a budgetIt may seem dull to hear that the first tip is to budget, but Rome wasn’t built in a day and saving for the holidays won’t happen in a month. Start by adding a category in your budget for the holidays and save each month. If you contribute a small amount to your holiday budget each month it can really add up rather than trying to come up with money on the spot. The budget should include spending limits for each gift. If you are exchanging with friends, family, or co-workers, try to encourage everyone to agree on a limit. Be sure to include food and travel into your holiday budget. 

>> Shop earlyKeep a list of the names of the people or animals in your life for which you plan to purchase a gift. Next to each name, write down the spending limit and ideas for gifts. This allows you to buy gifts early to take the load off during the holiday season. Picture a world in which you are done shopping in October and all you have left to do is wrap and bake. The post-holiday sale season is really the most wonderful time of the year, so begin your 2021 holiday shopping right after the holiday season is over. Decorations, wrapping paper, bows, boxes, gifts, pretty much everything goes on sale. 

>> Don’t break the bankThere is no need to go into debt to purchase gifts that are meant to show love and appreciation. You can show you care without breaking the bank. Find your inner creativity to make your dollar go further. Homemade gifts or food items can add a personalized touch. It’s much easier to buy a gift for one person rather than every family member or every co-worker.  

>> Put away perfectionThe holiday season is about more than just gifts. It is about time spent with people you care about, so put away the notion that every gift and meal must be perfect. While planning and saving twelve months of the year can lessen the stress of affording the holidays, those who are truly admired are the ones who are able to enjoy the season with those they love.