This year, holiday sales are expected to climb 3.9% to $602.1 billion, according to the National Retail Federation.

With spending estimated at about $800 per person — a full week's pay for most Americans — it's important to get started early and come up with a plan for staying on budget. 

Below, we've excerpted five simple shopping tips from the NRF:

1. Plan ahead. Make a list of absolutely everyone you need to buy for and how much you plan to spend on them before visiting any store. Be sure to remember any co-workers, teachers, and other non-family and friends. If you know who you need to buy for and how much you can afford to spend, you can make the best use of retailers ‘Buy Two Get Third Free’ type deals. 

2. Comparison shop. Use the Internet to compare prices and products before setting foot in a store. Not only will you save time by researching ahead of time, you’ll also save money on gas by not driving all over town.

3. Nail the timing. Shop after 6:00 p.m. the evening before a sale is advertised to begin. Many retailers program the registers the night before, so the sale may already come up in the register even if they have not changed out signs on the selling floor yet. Ask the associate in advance for any possible upcoming sales, especially on big ticket items.

4. Know retailers’ return and exchange policies. Return policies vary, so knowing ahead of time whether or not you will have to ship back returns or exchanges or if you can return them to the physical store in your area will help in the long run. Also be sure to find out who covers the cost of shipping if you need to return or exchange an item.

5. Buy gift cards. Save yourself the guesswork and buy gift cards, especially for babysitters, newspaper carriers, doormen, teachers and other recipients of smaller-value gifts. Gift cards are a great way to let gift recipients choose what they want and it’s an easy way to stick to a budget.

Read more:

"National Retail Federation - Pages." National Retail Federation - Pages. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Nov. 2013. .

Goudreau, Jenna. "5 Holiday Shopping Tips To Stay On Budget." Business Insider. N.p., 11 Nov. 2013. Web. 25 Nov. 2013. .