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.


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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Kristin - The Goat said...

My favorite place to shop for gifts is at the various art festivals. I love to go and I always see JUST the perfect gift for...fill in the blank. I've often times finished my christmas shopping before the summer is over. Living in Florida now, the art fairs tend to be more late fall, but when I visit Michigan as I did this week, the art fairs are in full swing all across the state.

It's an excellent practice - but I also like your idea of handmade, too. :)

Lisa said...

I'm starting to shop now. I'm not really buying anything (unless I see good sales but no full priced items right now) but I'm getting ideas and I have already started hand making items. I have one gift done already. And I'm working on making gift tags.

I love both for shopping and ideas. I have found some cute reusable wrapping which I have bookmarked and may buy soon since it's a great price.

Annikke said...

I also start shopping early. I like to make gifts too so I like to start in about July/August on that stuff too!

Lisa Nelsen-Woods said...

Kirby3131 - art festivals are my favorite place to shop for gifts! Fortunately when I got the clue phone about gift shopping early I was performing at the Ohio Renaissance Festival - lots of folks on my gift list got (and get) handmade things from vendors that have become fast friends.

Lisa and Annikke - I'm glad Im not the only one who starts shopping/making gifts early. Most of my family thinks I'm a loon (even though they admit my gifts are often the best they get!)

kelsey said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Cheap Like Me said...

I shop year-round. It also allows me to pick up stocking stuffers or little things at yard sales or thrift stores -- like the cute salt & pepper shaker set for 10 cents for someone who collects them. Doesn't have to be new, and in fact, you might find more "flair" or something special for a collection in a vintage shop. Not to mention recycle and save tons of money.

Robj98168 said...

July??? Snort! amateur!
I start shopping in January for christmas. Of course I make what I can for people on my gift list, buy the rest. But shopping early allows me to (Like you said) Save money. And reading what Kirby3131 said the art festivals are just now on, so I can get really unique gifts that I probably could not find in December.

Sarah Eliza @ devastateboredom said...

Great tip! I really need to try to be motivated to do this... it would make Christmas so much nicer to not have all that hectic shopping stuffed into the season. Thanks for the motivation!

Down Comforter said...

Every year I say I'm going to start shopping year round for Christmas, but never quite go through with it! You have inspired me though. Going to make a list today of everyone I need to buy for.

Lisa Nelsen-Woods said...

Robj98168 - I shop all year round too. In fact, in December 08 I pre-bought holiday gifts for some of the kids on my list for December 09 w/ Think Geek points I had to use or lose. So nah. :)

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