Today’s Time for Our First Christmas Shopping Post

by Tracy · 4 comments

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?

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  • Slinky says:

    I craft most of my presents for Christmas, so I start right away in January. I make a plan and buy the supplies and then just work on things as I have time throughout the year. It helps that we do a name exchange so I only need two gifts each year. And something for my husband, which is usually bought closer to Christmas. With crafting stuff, you definitely want to start early, and you definitely want to pick your project with care so you don’t bite off more than you can chew. The holidays aren’t much fun when you don’t have time to do anything but work on gifts. All I have left for this year is most of a mitten that I’ve been procrastinating on.

  • If you’re a firm believer that time is money, then save time by shopping online. You probably can get most of your shopping done in one Saturday morning on Amazon.com. Far better than driving to the mall and dealing with the crowds!

  • Emily says:

    We don’t have a lot of family around, and DS gets 3 gifts from us, so holiday shopping is a non-event.

  • Erin says:

    I do some early shopping and some ‘seasonal’ shopping. It really depends on peoples likes and dislike. My parents have become avid gardeners, birdwatchers & camping enthusiast in their retirement. If I want to get them something to use out of doors, the best time to shop for that and get great prices is at the end of the summer season. My Mom also collects Snowmen, so the best time to get her something she will like is after the previous christmas. This helps me stretch my budget, not add to it. One of the tricks is to store the gift where they are easy to see and remind yourself you’ve already bought things.

    I also find the ‘envelope’ method works well for keeping the gift spending down. When the envelope is empty I’m done buying….they you can even put the spent ones in a different pile or place. No list needed! If you decide to add someone, you have to put the gift money in the envelope, and remember to take the envelope with you. No envelope, no gift. At least not for Christmas anyway…if you decide to buy it as a birthday gift instead, I can’t be much help 😉

    It is about organizing and discipline, it’s about finding one for you that keeps you organized and on track.

    ~Erin

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