Can you believe that it’s that time of the year again? Do you know that time of year when we are all forced to think about the holiday shopping season even before Halloween has come and gone?

It's still warm outside and the store displays are now featuring Santa Claus and the newest glittering Christmas ornaments for your Christmas tree.

So, we suppose then it would be wise of us to begin thinking about how to approach our shopping techniques for the new holiday season.

We simply must make a commitment to not making the same mistakes we made last year; like standing in long lines, fighting the crowds, spending more than we budgeted for, waiting until the absolute last minute, or being the first in line on "Black Friday" (the day after Thanksgiving which traditionally marks the start of the holiday shopping season) and ultimately getting trampled over as we fight to get that discounted digital camera or flat-screen TV.

Instead, we are going to take the "Smarter Shopper Holiday Pledge" (for printing and sharing).

"Smarter Shopper Holiday Pledge"

I, (insert your name here), pledge to adhere to the ten-holiday shopping tips outlined below. I realize that by not doing so, I may suffer the consequences of holiday shoppers' remorse which include but are not limited to: loss of cash reserves, higher credit card debt, and near insanity from overexposure to large crowds, outrageous lines, and low product inventory.

TIP 1: I Will Use Cash

Using cash makes it easier to stay within your budget.

We don't even mean using your debit card because you're able to justify going over just a bit on a particular gift if there's money available in your checking account.

We say set limits, use cash, and when the cash is gone, there's no more gift buying.

Now, this is going to take some self-control and we all struggle with it during the holiday season, but if you've got $100 for gifts, then don't push the budget and spend $101.

No matter how wrapped up you get in the Christmas lights, music, and other smiling holiday shoppers carrying their large shopping bags, stay within your budget…cash will help you do that!

TIP 2: I Will Keep Track Of My Credit Card Spending

Ok, if you absolutely must use a credit card, use the one with the lowest interest rate and know how you are going to pay off the credit card balance.

Carrying balances obviously costs more than the item itself.

So, that bargain that you get during the holiday shopping season is no longer a bargain 90 to 120 days later.

Have a plan to pay off the holiday purchases.

Additionally, and just as important, know how much you are spending on those credit cards. You still need to set limits.

TIP 3: I Will Be Patient

There's nothing like waiting in a long checkout line and having to endure price check after price check or a declined credit cardholder arguing with the cashier, or even a shift change just as you approach the register.

However, we all know these things happen. Calm down and be patient.

Should you need a small book or magazine to bring along with you, do so.

You could also watch a movie on your smartphone to help kill the time.

If leaving the kids at home is an option because they'll add additional stress to your trip, do so.

Maybe just taking a deep breath will help. Just calm down and be patient.

TIP 4: I Will Start Shopping Early In The Season And Get It Out Of The Way

We've never understood why people wait until the very last minute to do their holiday shopping when they know it drives them nuts. Start shopping now. The malls aren't overcrowded yet.

No one else is really thinking about holiday shopping for now. You could be the first one. If you really want to get ahead of the curve, make your purchases during the year.

This can help to soften the financial blow to your checking account by spreading those purchases out over several months prior to Christmas.

TIP 5: I Will Give Less Expensive But Creative Gifts Instead

Now, we’re not necessarily suggesting arts and crafts here unless, of course, that's what you want to do. But, all of us are not creative minds.

However, for example, if you think of one gift that would work for an entire family, you'll definitely save money. For example; let’s say a family loves old movies.

A great creative gift basket consisting of a few old movies, popcorn, candy, and maybe a blanket would definitely be less expensive than trying to get us all individual gifts.

Think outside the box to say money!

We know that this type of gift-giving isn’t for everyone.

TIP 6: I Will Have A Game Plan

In order to get those must-have items or those hard-to-find popular items; you have to create a game plan.

That game plan has to take into consideration the availability of the items, the budget, and when you can go get them.

Don't leave your house without a game plan outlining where you're going, what you're going to purchase, how much you are going to purchase it for, and what your alternate gift selections are.

Yes, you should at least have in mind what the alternate gift item will be should you not be able to find the specific gifts you seek or if you are on the losing end of an in-store battle with another determined customer.

TIP 7: I Will Shop Safely

Watch your personal belongings at all times including handbags, purchases, and children.

Pay particular attention while you’re at the register when you can be distracted by the particulars of the transaction or outside in the parking lot or waiting on public transportation.

Here’s a common scenario; A mom with her young children, completely distracted is targeted by a team of purse-snatchers and gets robbed.

The big takeaway is to not feel a false sense of security just because others are around and always be aware of your surroundings.

TIP 8: I Will Get Enough Rest

There's nothing like going out during the holiday shopping season and running out of steam.

An important part of your shopping game plan should be to get plenty of rest the night before.

Get a great start in the morning with a good breakfast and wear comfortable shoes.

You should be all set to go.

These types of shopping trips can sometimes go all day and night, especially if you're hitting the pavement with someone who likes to literally shop until the stores close down, grabbing that last bargain on the rack as the last call announcement goes out over the intercom.

Be prepared and get some rest.

TIP 9: I Will Not Forget The Bargains At The Outlet Malls

Most downtowns in any good-sized city or town have outlet malls in which you could potentially find holiday bargains.

You may need a car but the prices can be well worth the drive.

When most people make a list of things to do in their cities, They often overlook the feasibility of outlet malls.

There are bargains on upscale merchandise from designers such as Kate Spade, Giorgio Armani, and Coach at the Premium Outlet Malls.

TIP 10: I Will Attempt To Avoid The Crowds At All Costs

Shopping earlier during the day or first thing Saturday morning will help you avoid some of the crowd during the week and those late risers on Saturday or Sunday.

Or if you like to shop later in the evening, most stores will have extended holiday hours.

Most people like to be at home by this time. This can work in your favor.

There are fewer crowds in the evening. But remember to be safe.

Bonus Tip: You, could, of course, do most or all of your shopping Online, but then that takes all of the "fun" out of the whole holiday shopping experience.

If you aren’t into large crowds, traffic jams, no available parking spaces, being gone all day, and the stress that comes along with shopping at retail stores, then Online is the way to go.

You just discovered the 10 Holiday Shopping Tips in the form of pledges…

The Christmas holiday season is both, one of joy and one of stress, but the most important benefit is being able to spend time with your loved ones.

If you’re a gift-giver, there’s no way around the time-consuming process of shopping…

And it doesn’t matter if you’re making your purchases Online, physically at the retail stores, or a combination of both.

We hope this helps…

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