Black Friday is widely known as the start of holiday shopping season, but many folks in New Jersey refuse to follow that rule. They don't even wait until Halloween.

Dino Flammia speaks with shopper (Listener photo submission)
Dino Flammia speaks with shopper (Listener photo submission)

Taking a couple laps at a local outlet mall and around a shopping center parking lot, it wasn't hard to find eager consumers who were already checking items off their holiday shopping lists.

And if you're interested in joining the early few and avoiding the crowds, we have a couple tips from New Jersey shoppers on how to live a stress-free December.

1. If you're early, you're on time

If the store opens at 9 a.m., Brick resident Jill Owen is standing outside the doors at 8:45 a.m.

"It gets me in and out a little quicker," she said. "It gets me a parking spot."

Owen, who's waiting for her annual bonus before her holiday shopping begins, said it's important to be "the first one there," whether or not there's a crazy deal.

2. You better shop around

Nearly every early shopper I spoke with on Monday said they had already purchased a gift online ahead of the 2015 holiday season. It's more convenient, yes, but it can also be less of a hit on the wallet.

"You can do the Internet thing and then you can compare prices to stores," said Manalapan resident Nancy Weintraub, who's in the process of buying Hanukkah presents for her four children.

And Weintraub noted some small businesses and independent shops may be willing to slash their prices if you show them the deals you're finding on the Web.

Even a quick trip in the car can save you some dough. Janet Smith of Middletown insisted patient shoppers will find that one product's price can vary significantly from one store to the next.

"If and when you have time to go shopping, it works," Smith said.

3. Sold out? Not in October

Kim Nogal of Toms River started her holiday shopping weeks ago, which is later than usual for the mother of triplet girls. She's less focused on getting the best deal and more concerned with actually being able to find the gifts her children want.

As the holidays inch closer, the shelves get emptier, and the gift you're looking for, especially if it's the hot item of the season, may not be there again until January.

"If you go late, it's what's left," Nogal said.

A recent survey from SessionM in Boston found that nearly 60 percent of consumers plan to begin their shopping before Black Friday. Twenty-six percent have already started.

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