3 simple ways to start saving now for holiday gifts

We still have 76 shopping days until Christmas and 60 days until the first night of Hanukkah.

Holiday shopping is something you need to prepare for. How can you do that now?

One way is to see if you can trim some costs from your normal family budget so you can stash some cash before you hit the stores.

Chances are you can find some extra cash in your budget between now and black Friday. Kiplinger's Personal Finance has some simple, painless tips to get you started.

Tip #1: Stop paying for text messages and potentially overage fees with a variety of free texting apps.

"You'll tap into all of that through an app on your phone as opposed to using standard messaging on your phone, free of charge," said Robert Long of Kiplinger's Personal Finance. "The only thing you'll have to put up with are some ads here and there, of course."

Tip #2: Dig in your wallet to find and sell unwanted gift cards.

Kiplinger says the average household has about $300 worth of unwanted gift cards. An online gift card exchange won't give the full value of the card, but it's better than nothing.

Tip #3: Adjust your tax withholding instead of waiting for the usual fat refund in the spring.

"That's your money. That's money that government, of course, is giving back to you in the spring. But why let the IRS hold on to it all year long? You could be saving or investing that money or earning some interest along the way or spending it on worthwhile adventures, such as holiday gifts," said Long.

It's as simple as filing a new W-4 form with your employer. The changes can take effect with your next paycheck and could put almost $500 in your bank account over the next two months.

A new study released Tuesday by the respected market research group NPD shows that most holiday shoppers -- 67 percent -- plan to spend as much as they did last year on holiday gifts. Even so, the report says, retailers will need to develop creative ways to lure shoppers into the stores.