It happens every winter. The holiday season is months away, and you theorize that this year you’re going to be ahead of the game. Rather than fight the in-store crowds or quickly search for items online, you’re going to do your shopping early. Weeks pass, and you still haven’t bought a thing but you’ll get around to it. Finally, it’s a week before the holiday season and you need to scramble to get all your shopping done (which is the exact opposite of what you initially planned). Let this year be different. Stop making it hard and halt the holiday creep.
Don’t Buy What Can Be Outgrown
It’s beneficial to start months ahead of time. Some even take advantage of the post-holiday sales regarding a number of items. However, don’t invest in gifts that can be outgrown, which implies preference as well as size. For example, you may choose a shirt for a nephew months before the holiday, only to have him grow a few inches. Alternatively, a video game or hobby of interest at the moment may be obsolete once the holiday season comes around. Be early but don’t be hasty. If you want to buy clothes or hobby-related gifts, invest in a gift certificate rather than an item that can be outgrown.
Tailor Your List
Before the beginning of the shopping season, make a list of all recipients. Write down three things you can buy each of them. If you can’t find one item, substitute it with another choice. If you don’t feel like getting all the gifts at once, assign yourself a few people per week and space-out your buying season. Also, don’t forget to shop online, which saves time. Why head to a Christmas store when you can shop for fun Christmas ornaments online?
Be Realistic About Homemade Gifts
Some people are not materialistic and rather receive something made by hand that took the giver time and energy to create. If you’re a painter, weaver, woodworker, etc, it’s a great idea to craft recipients homemade gifts. However, be realistic about time and don’t procrastinate. Sure, a homemade gift is special, but it’s less so if it was quickly and poorly crafted. Put yourself on a schedule and be realistic about how much time you’re willing to devote to each gift.
Have a Seasonal Plan in Place
Have a plan so you don’t need to wildly run around the days before Christmas. However, the days before Christmas could present a number of opportunities to take advantage of huge discounts on big ticket items such as televisions, smart phones, etc. Establish a plan and notice the patterns of holiday shopping regarding offers and discounts. For example, we all know that the day after Thanksgiving offers great discounts, but it’s also crowded. The following Monday presents a myriad of online discounts but you may not find anything of interest. Don’t place all your eggs in one basket. Target items on Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and the few days preceding Christmas. Use your time wisely and notice sales patterns.
Pay with Cash
It’s difficult to keep track of spending when you’re swiping a card. It’s easy to go overboard with spending; after all, it’s the holidays, the season for giving. However, you’ll be cursing yourself in January when the credit card bill comes. While being formulaic about your gift list, lend the same philosophy to spending. Place a cost next to each person’s name and spend that dollar amount. It will be easier to budget your money and you won’t feel anxious (or broke) when January comes around. Moreover, paying with cash is likely to force you to start early (since you won’t be able to lean on your credit card to make all the purchases at once).
Use Comparison Search Engines
You shouldn’t accept any price tag unless you have thoroughly researched the item online and compared the prices of several vendors. Use comparison search engines to see what sites have the best prices. Also, pay attention to stores that will match the price of competitors; put in the time to research the best price while making a purchase at a store or online vendor of your convenience. Moreover, don’t be afraid to ask about upcoming sales or if a retailer is willing to sell you an item at a cheaper price. Lastly, look for online coupons on websites, or consider getting on particular brands’ email lists. Shop smarter rather than make the buying season harder than it has to be.
Ed Pope has been head buyer at Fun Christmas Ornaments for the past ten years. He is responsible for finding ornaments for activities from archery to zip lines.