I love Christmas, but I’ll admit that I breathed a small sigh of relief when all of the holiday stuff got put away until next year.
So it’s strange to admit that I’ve already started doing my Christmas shopping for 2015. In fact, I get most of my Christmas shopping done 11 months in advance every year. Why exactly? Well for several reasons, but mostly because planning ahead saves time and money. It’s as simple as that!
Here are a few of my tips for those who want to get their shopping done really early and save.
Step 1: Make a Detailed List
My Christmas list is composed mostly of kids. I have eleven nieces and nephews I shop for each year. My goal is always to give them clothing that they will actually wear.
They’re still several years from the pre-teen stage, so it’s not too hard. I also have a few friends and gift exchanges on my list, but I don’t spend too much time searching for these gifts. Once I’ve made a list of each person who I plan on giving a gift to, I write down the price goal for each one.
For the kids, I budget $5-10 per child, and about $10-20 per gift for the adults, since there aren’t that many adults on my list. We estimate about 20 people who will get gifts from us, at an average of $10 per gift, which brings our total budget to $200ish (20 people X $10 each = $200).
Both my husband and my families have cut back on the gifts that we give each other and opt for a gift exchange type tradition instead.
The final part of the list includes gift options and ideas next to each name and budgeted price. This approach, and mutual agreement, has saved us a lot of money! We know who we’re buying for, what to give them, and the approximate amount it will cost. The goal is to only spend a little bit while still giving an expensive gift.
So let’s say I want to give $25 Gymboree shirt or skirt while still only paying $5-7. By shopping this far ahead, I’m able to search for these items online, and in-store, throughout the entire year. Nearly guaranteeing that I find what I want, at my budgeted price.
Step 2: Stock Up on Clearance Items
For the kids, I shop for clearance winter clothes that I think will still be in style the next year. Generally, I stay away from any licensed characters or graphic tees. Most of the kids size up with their age, i.e. the 5 year old wears a size 5 now and will wear a size 6 next year.
This makes it easy to remember what size they’ll likely fit into. For some of the kids, they’re on a higher percentage of the growth chart, so I just buy clothes two sizes bigger than what they wear now. So far, this has worked quite successfully.
Last year, I shopped online at The Children’s Place and was able to get about 10 pieces of clothing (a mix of shirts, skirts, and jackets) for $40. The total was actually more, but with a few coupon codes and a discounted gift card, I was able to shave off a good portion of the total.
This year, I bought a few clothing items from Target that were either on clearance paired with a coupon or I got for a steal by pairing a Target cartwheel and a Target coupon. Stocking up when items go on clearance, or when you have a coupon, special, or discount, is the best way to save money on your gift list.
Brands like Gymboree have also helped me get five gifts crossed off my list, through a 75% clearance sale and $25 off of $50 Gymboree bucks. So that made each gift $5 for all the children.
I feel like I missed out on quite a bit of the clearance deals this year because when I was browsing some of the children’s stores, I had a hard time finding items I liked. So if you encounter this problem, you always need a back up gift idea.
Step 3: Buy Extra Gifts
My husband’s aunt stocks up on smaller gifts, such as Yankee candles and Bath and Body works products, in the event she doesn’t come across the perfect gift. She gave me a nice Yankee candle this year, which I’m sure would have cost her $16-20, but she probably got it for a few dollars. And it a nice gesture because I love candles!
Some people might get offended to get clearance items, but she and I think alike, so we’re happy to share our shopping scores.
Many clothing stores have winter accessories, clothes, and shoes deeply discounted. You may be surprised to find that craft stores, such as Michaels and Joann’s, also have clearance prices on their toys or non-Christmas kid art supplies at this time.
Recently, I bought a Melissa and Doug cookie set from Michaels that was marked down from $22 to $8. Then I paired it with a 20% off anything coupon. I still have no idea why it was marked down so significantly, since it had nothing to do with Christmas. It’s good to keep these stores in mind when you shopping for gift extras.
One more place I have found success in finding Christmas/birthday filler gifts for kids is at Staples and Office Depot. Shopping around the back-to-school time of year can save you loads of money on craft ideas, and art-type activities.
They had several fun sticker books and other fun books marked down to a dollar (originally over $4-5 each). Since it was during the back to school time, there was a printable $5 off of $25 coupon I was able to use with the entire purchase as well. I generally use these items to add filler to a birthday or Christmas gift.
For example; if I am only giving a cute shirt as a gift, then I will add one or two of these filler items to make the gift seem more complete.
Step 4: Find a Place to Store Them
Since you probably know from my past articles that I do not enjoy clutter, you may be wondering where I store all of this stuff. I have a large dedicated bin in my hallway closet devoted to just to gifts. Since most of the items I buy are relatively smaller, they all fit in this small space.
However, if need be, I would just move all the Christmas presents to one bin to be stored in the garage rafters, while keeping the “any occasion” presents in the hall closet bin. Additionally, I tape a gift inventory sheet to the front of the box so I know who I bought for (and who still needs something) as well as what I bought for them.
Start Your Christmas Shopping Now
It may sound in-depth, but this process doesn’t take long. I mean, you’re going to be shopping throughout the year anyway, so might as well keep your Christmas list in the back of your mind when shopping or browsing the clearance section.
If I were shopping at Target and happen to pass by several 70% off frames or candles, I would probably buy a few, thinking of upcoming birthdays or Christmas presents. The same is true for when I shop at other stores. Many times I can load a coupon for a specific gift card.
Right now, I have a $5 off of $25 Gap/Old Navy gift card, which I’ll buy and store in my gift box for an easy last-minute present.
Using these steps saves me at least an extra $100-200 throughout the year, as well as a lot of stress come the holidays. It’s much easier to pull out a gift from my hall closet then to run to the store and pick something out the day of a birthday party.
And this way our friends and family receive nice gifts, while we stay on budget!
Do you shop for gifts early? How far do you plan ahead? What other ways do you find great deals on gifts?