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Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Christmas Shopping Tips that Save Time and Money

Here’s a big tip to help you save money this Christmas. Start your holiday shopping now. Early. Way early. July early even.

Don’t go hating. At first, I thought this was nutty too. And of course I mocked the friend who told me that he finished his Christmas shopping in September because it seemed waaaaaay too early to think about such things.



That was about the time that Husband and I were getting serious in the relationship department. Well, we’re not usually serious (ever!) so let’s be more truthful and say we were moving from the boyfriend-girlfriend stage into this could be THE ONE stage.

Awwwwww.

That meant that my Christmas shopping list doubled because Husband’s family was added to my own list. That’s a lot more people than I was used to shopping for. And it's grown. After many years of marriage, I now have 35 people on my gift list and that’s just immediate family and their offspring. So yeah, I have incentive to shop early and year round for all of my holiday gifts.

Especially since Husband hates to shop and I end up doing most of it.



So I tried it. And you know what, come December a lot of the people on my gift list were done. It saved me a ton of time, money, and I had more energy to put into trying to find meaningful gifts that are less likely to be tossed aside after the holidays over.

A practice was born.

Why Holiday Shop All Year Round?

1. Encourages cash only spending. Spreading my Christmas spending out over 6-12 months vs. 1 month allows me to pay cash for one or two gifts at a time instead of resorting to credit for all of my purchases during December. No nasty surprises when the credit card bill comes in January – because it doesn’t.


2. Saves time. By the time December rolls around I have most or possibly all of my holiday shopping done. That gives me more time during the holidays for volunteer work, holiday baking or just chilling out with the family and some mulled cider. Extra chill out time during holiday hub bub is the Greatest Gift of All. If you could wrap that up in a box and give to me so I could use it later I’d be forever grateful. Since you can’t, I take it where I can get it.


3. Saves money. I can take advantage of sales and off season clearance if I buy the perfect gift items as I see them.


4. Allows you to by more unique, local, or handmade items as gifts. I like to take advantage of shopping opportunities at the summer festivals, craft fairs, and vacation spots for those items. It’s the easiest way to buy local if that’s your plan.


5. Gives you more energy and time to put into holiday crafting or decorating. When I make gift items way ahead of time like my braided fleece dog chew toys it gives me more time to make any planned food gifts or items that don’t have preservatives and need to be made right before the holiday like my homemade sugar scrubs.


6. You don’t have to scramble for a ton of gift ideas come December. If I’m not shopping for actual items, I’m shopping year round for ideas, which I jot down on a list on computer and my Blackberry when someone says in passing, “I wish I had…” or “I’ve been looking for…” Because some of these items I may not be able to buy or find early. This practice also allows me to give meaningful gifts instead of a hurry up gift that sucks.


7. Allows you to plan for family gifts. For example, at a summer birthday party at a water park, the mom mentioned how much they like going and floated the idea of getting a membership, which the dad let sink by changing the conversation. I tucked that little nugget of info in the back of my head and did some research. Sure, the family membership looked pricey but after I divided the cost among the number of family members (six people) the per person price was much more in line with my per person Christmas gift budget, especially after I got a break by purchasing a summer membership in December. Actually it was less expensive than our per person budget so I bought them the parking pass too. I crossed off six people on my list with one gift – talk about a time saver! There were a lot of happy nieces and nephews that Christmas and the following summer. My title of Most Fabulous Aunt on the Planet was safe for another year.

This approach works great for back to school shopping too.

I don’t get all of my shopping done in July and not everything I buy ahead of time is the person’s big gift. Sometimes it’s something small like handmade soaps that are stocking stuffers or the kicky vintage sunglasses that Husband saw me lusting after and went back and bought and gave to me later as a birthday gift. Both items are greatly appreciated because there was time to put some thought behind those purchases.

When do you start your holiday shopping? What are your tips?



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