Over the years I’ve drawn out my shopping plans, not waiting until the “official” shopping season. In fact, these last few years stores are learning to spread out their sales, and there has been some backlash against stores that push sales at the cost of family and holiday time on Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day. Trust me, I have a lot on my plate, but I still take effort to start early for a number of reasons.
It spreads out the cost. Sure, we can (and do) set aside some money in the three or four months before December. Some people do this all year. We use most of that money for last-minute things and holiday foods and drinks. By spending just fifty dollars per month on gifts leading up to the holiday season, my budget doesn’t feel so hard-hit come November.
Some people are hard to shop for. So think ahead! Start browsing now, even if you don’t buy yet. It takes some of that pressure off.
Some people are easy to shop for. So if you already know what they want--a gift card, a particular toy--why wait until the last minute when you can mark them off your list now?
There are other deals besides Black Friday. I shop the sales during other parts of the year. Box stores often clear some of their toy shelves with major clearances in August and September. You can nab crafting gifts (from markers to gadgets and gizmos) once back-to-school is winding down. If you live in a moderate climate, check the summer clearance of clothing for holiday (or birthday) gifts. Accessories and shoes also hit the clearance rack, so if your daughter wants a new purse or son needs the coolest cap, the best deal may be last season’s NOW.
Gifts aren’t the only holiday season expenditure. Sometimes holiday specific foods (July 4, Labor Day, seasonal sports, and Halloween) go on clearance though you can use them at other times of year. When your box store app or coupons app has a great deal on baking essentials, stock up early on the things you always need for holiday foods.
It can bring back the joy. If you find fun in shopping and gift-giving, but lose that in the stress of “28 days until Christmas,” then spreading out your shopping can bring back some of the joy. Think of one person per shopping trip or walk through one area of the store (clothes, electronics, toys, etc.) just to see what you can find. Grab a latte and stroll or stay in your jammies and click to buy in the joyous spirit of giving, not the stress of last-minute desperation.
Sometimes getting the best sale isn’t the best deal. Consider the cost for the hours standing in line at the stores, searching the Internet for the best deal, waiting for slow checkouts (online or in-store), and lost sleep for those middle-of-the-night and early morning deals. Don’t get me wrong--we are a family on a snug budget. And I know it all adds up, especially when you’re buying so many gifts for so many people in so little time. But sometimes those four extra bucks on a toy aren’t worth it. Just buy now and find your savings in your sanity.
Just remember to keep track… and remember where you hide them. I still live in the glorious stage of younger children who don’t know to look for presents yet. I have even, more than once, managed to buy gifts right under their noses! I have a special box in a climate-controlled area of the house to put everything I grab. As the box fills up, I start to make a list of what is there and who it’s for, as well as who I have left to shop for. And then I take a sigh of relief.
Lynette is a mom of three children from 18 months to age five. She has cloth diapered all three since birth and enjoys all things eco-friendly and mindful living.