Alright, I’ll admit — I’m one of those people that waits until after Thanksgiving to celebrate Christmas. I promise I’m no Scrooge, there’s just only so many times I can hear the song “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” without completely losing it.
But when it comes to Christmas shopping, I start early. I may not celebrate Christmas until the Thanksgiving festivities are complete, but when it comes to gift shopping, I start in late October/early November.
I do this for a few reasons:
- I LOVE Christmas shopping — I’m a gift-giver all the way. The earlier I can start and longer I have to shop for the most perfect gifts, the better!
- I hate traffic. There is nothing else I’d rather not be doing than sitting in traffic, especially during the holidays. I avoid it like the plague, so I start shopping as early as I can to avoid the insanity.
- I have two kids — it’s tough to get things done when I want to get them done when I’ve got kids in tow, so starting my shopping early ensures less stress and less rushing when Christmas time rolls around.
The best part about starting my Christmas shopping in advance is the ability it has given me to not over-spend on gifts; the last several years, I’ve tried my darnedest to stay within a budget and, as a result, eliminate the stress and craziness that can easily creep in during the Christmas season. Through that learning process, I’ve developed a few tips to help keep anyone on top of their Christmas gift shopping this season.
Start With a Budget
My husband and I have a “Gift Savings” account that we contribute to every month. We use it for birthdays, baby showers, Christmas, etc. I let it accrue as much as I can, and once November rolls around, I have a pretty good idea of how much I’ll be able to spend on Christmas gifts. Then I divide the total by how many people I have to buy for and voila — there’s my budget.
First of all, I am never satisfied with my budget. I always wish I could spend more to get everyone exactly what I think they’d want, but that’s the point of a budget. It should stretch you a bit and get you to think outside the box, and that’s totally okay. Besides, it’s way better than the alternative: the guilt that comes with going over-budget.
Secondly, I’m sure many of you can pinpoint the members of your family that like gifts more than others. My husband literally couldn’t care less if I gave him a gift, so I don’t even budget for him (making him his favorite Dutch Apple Pie will more than suffice). On the other hand, I’ve got a couple family members that place a high value on receiving gifts — it’s how they feel loved and appreciated, so I adjust my budget accordingly. I typically add more to my budget for the family members that really really love gifts, and take a little away from those that don’t really mind smaller, less extravagant gifts.
Having and utilizing a budget at the get-go is a fantastic way to gain control over how you spend throughout the Christmas season.
Make Your Gift List Now
Start figuring out what you want to get everyone as soon as you can, that way you have time to search for the best deal and/or utilize the best sales when they come around. Not only that, but you’ll avoid the stress that comes with scrambling to find a gift the day before Christmas for that one person on your list that’s notoriously hard to buy for.
Another great advantage to making your list way ahead of time is, if you end up finishing your shopping early, you avoid paying extra for expedited shipping or being forced to buy something that’s over-budget.
Trust me; make your list now — it’s a win-win.
Get Creative With How and Where You Buy
As I already mentioned, keep an eye out for the best sales and deals so you can jump on the gift you want for the price you want to buy it at. Black Friday and Cyber Monday can sometimes offer great deals — just be careful not to buy into the gimmick that everything is a good price just because it’s Black Friday, or because that’s what all the stores are telling you. Just stick to the budget and you’ll be fine.
We’ve also got some great liquidation and discount stores in the area, such as Cleveland Liquidation in Middleburg Heights or Price Drop in Elyria, just to name a couple. These kinds of places offer great products at great prices — you never know what you may find there!
Finally, I know most people have gift cards sitting in their wallet that either haven’t been used or simply won’t be used — take advantage of that! Find gifts at the stores you have gift cards to but don’t typically shop at, or even re-gift restaurant gift cards. You’ve essentially got free money sitting there collecting dust, so put those gift cards to good use during the gift-giving season.
By starting out with a plan, both budget and gift-wise, well in advance, you’ll gain the ability to enjoy everything the holiday season has to offer without worrying about your bank account or that one person you forgot to buy for.
What are some ways you stay within your budget during the Christmas season?