While we haven’t gotten the first report of “Eek – Christmas decorations already?!?” it’s bound to happen soon and so begins the 6 months talk of getting ready for the holidays. For many people, shopping is part of the fun and they relish the opportunity to start – the sooner the better. I’ve even heard a couple of people proudly proclaim that they were completely finished with their list well before Halloween.
If you ask these early birds, they’ll tell you that shopping early lets them get the best bargains and avoid the crowds. They keep their eyes open all year long for the perfect gift at a great price and spend the rush between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day safely out of the mall. The really organized ones even wrap as they go!
But is getting a huge head start on shopping the answer for everyone? Knowing my own shopping personality, I’d have to say no, it’s not an idea that works universally. Here are some of the big drawbacks I’ve found when shopping early.
1. You have to be very organized. Some people, including me, struggle with staying organized and adding yet another thing to keep straight doesn’t make sense. If you’re like me, it’s very easy to find that you’ve bought a dozen presents for one child and a sweater for the other or completely skipped your granny while somehow remembering your ex-aunt-in-law that lives in Guam or have completely forgotten where you hid everything.
Most people that I’ve known who were successful early-shoppers were natural list makers. Not only that, they could actually remember where they put the list and take it with them every time they go shopping. It’s easy enough to say “well, just do that, duh”, but like most things in life, saving time and money works best when we come up with strategies that rely on our strengths, not our weaknesses.
2. It’s easy to let the list balloon when you have oodles of time and six months of paychecks. Again, this won’t be so much of an issue for those who are disciplined and organized, but for the delightfully impulsive amongst us, deciding to shop ahead for the holidays can be like an open invitation to buy anything that anyone we remotely know could conceivably want or need.
So not only do you need a list, you need the willpower to not add people to the list just because you found a gift for them and to stick with a budget. We won’t even talk about what adding giftees and/or extra gifts does to the gift-giving balance! By the way, if you have no idea about the anxiety implied by my prior sentence, you are probably well-balanced enough to make shopping early work.
3. It can make gifts seem unduly important. It’s easy to get obsessed with the idea of finding the perfect gifts and making this holiday season the most amazing one ever. Again, this is heavily dependent on your personality and inclinations. Some of us can start shopping on December 26th and be completely sane about the process while for others, starting early means setting insane expectations that can lead to a vicious circle of trying hard/falling short/trying hard.
For some people the answer to holiday craziness is shopping ahead, while for others, it’s best to strictly limit the amount of time they spend thinking about presents and other preparations. If you’re the kind of person who doesn’t tend to get obsessive or worry too much, buying presents as you go can be a smart way to save time and money but for others it keeps the focus of the holidays on buying things and gifts and leads to a feeling of disappointment and even emptiness once all of the wrapping paper is thrown away.
Does shopping early for the holidays work for you or is it counterproductive?