It seems were are coming around to that time of year , the time to begin thinking of Christmas. Doesn't it seem to come by so quick every year, just think Halloween is not other with yet! But it can be quite a good idea to make plans for your Christmas shopping early. A lot of people begin their shopping early as it makes it possible for them to even out the cost as opposed to spending all their wages (and more) in November/December. In today's current financial climate this is probably even more appropriate as many have lost their jobs or have had to take shorter hours/reduced working weeks.

But lets not dwell on the gloom and misery. Christmas is the time of year to look ahead and to enjoy spending time with family and friends. Below you will find some useful tips to think about when doing your Christmas shopping:

1. Look At The Current Sales
Lots of the larger shops have their sales and special offers on at the moment. Buy 2 get the 3rd free, or upto 50% off market items. Toys are especially easy for find with these kind of offers. If you know what your child wants for Christmas this can be a great time to get yourself some great deals. However, sometimes you will have to make a bit of a judgment call. But as we all know kids can change their minds loads of times between now a Christmas as I well know being Mum to three little terrors (sorry I mean kids!). Having just bought the toys on special offer only for your child to say they don't want the toy is a heart stopping moment. Having said that, come Christmas morning they have usually forgotten all about not wanting the toy and are very happy with your purchase after all!

2. Will Slightly Used Be OK?
I never used to be too keen on second hand items, but this was before the kids came along and I found out how they can spend my money faster than I can earn it! Nowadays you can really pick up a bargain online mainly due to the birth of online auction web sites. You know what it is like, when the next new toy comes into the shops any old toys are forgotten about and left to one side. Therefore this makes online auction sites a great place to pick up some good deals just remember to look around, check out the seller as much as possible, look at their feedback and selling history.

Another tip is if you buy video games, for consoles such as the Xbox, Playstation, PSP and Wii etc then buying second hand games is a great way to save some money. Trading in games can be a great way of saving money as basically once you have finished the game you don't need it anymore and as any avid gamer will tell you it does not take long to finish a game these days. The Game store is the place my husband regularly trades in our games. This means we can buy a couple of slightly used games for the kids which keeps them happy. Fortunately we have not had any problems with the slightly used games we have purchased and basically I highly recommend this way of picking up a bargain.

3. Use Your Imagination
When you have small children your extended family understand that money may be tight therefore they don't really expect expensive Christmas presents. For example my parents-in-law and even my mum and dad really like getting gift vouchers, a nice book, flowers etc. Watching the children open their gifts is what most family members enjoy witnessing. This is the real spirit of Christmas. Therefore bear in mind that you do not have to spead a fortune on presents. When buying your gifts think about what the person really wants. If you are creative, that is fantastic, you can make something very special and save money at the same time.