Every year, it seems like the holiday shopping season arrives a little earlier. The malls fill up with bows and holly as early as October, and decorative baubles share space next to Halloween decorations. But if you wait until these signs appear to start thinking about the holidays, it may already be too late for your finances. 

Here are the top reasons why you should start planning the holidays as early as possible.

1. It’s a Regular Expense

Regular expenses are the bills in your budget that arrive at the same time without fail. Rent and utility bills are usually the first ones that come to mind, simply because you pay them every month. 

But any bill that you can anticipate and plan for is a regular expense, and what’s more hotly anticipated than the winter holidays? It’s called the most wonderful time of the year for a reason!

When tabling your budget, you reserve cash for the big, recurring expenses in your life; you should do the same for the winter holidays.

Budgeting for the holidays is simple, albeit time-consuming. Just look back to see how much you spent on last year’s festivities. This gives you a good idea of what you’ll pay this year. With this number in mind, you can figure out how much you need to save each month to have enough by the big day. 

2. You’ll Be Better Prepared for Emergencies

By spreading the burden over multiple paychecks, you’ll find it easier to pay for the holidays on your own dime — not a line of credit. As a result, your finances will be better prepared for an emergency. Without adding holiday purchases to your line of credit, you’ll have more of your available limit serving as a safety net.

A line of credit works best as a backup when things go wrong. And you know how things tend to go sideways when your family is busy. 

There’s just something about the holidays that tend to attract disaster — like when a visiting cousin loads your dishwasher incorrectly and forces you to call in an expensive repair technician. Or, when your child gets a nasty sore throat, and you have to take her to the clinic. 

If you do tap into your line of credit for emergencies like these, make sure you pay your bills on time — and try to pay more than just the minimum balance. These habits help to add positive entries in your history.

However, it’s important to note your credit is a dynamic number shaped by several different factors. To have more control over what goes into your history, learn how to impact your credit in 5 easy steps

Pay Lower Prices

Count backwards from Christmas nearly a full month, and you’ll arrive at some of the biggest shopping days of the year: Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Millions of Americans take advantage of the Thanksgiving weekend deals to get the lowest prices on gifts. 

But more start even earlier. According to Deloitte, 60 percent of shoppers start before Thanksgiving weekend. 

This is a helpful tactic when you’re shopping on a tight budget. You can take your time to shop. You can be discerning and hold off buying expensive items until they’re discounted in seasonal sales. You won’t have to pay premium prices at the last second to make sure you have something under the tree.  

Although they’re over in the blink of an eye, the holidays can have a lasting impacting on your finances.  Don’t wait until eggnog and mulled cider are back on the menu to start your shopping. Plan early to protect your budget. There’s no such thing as preparing too early.