How and why should you start your shopping early?

Person wrapping small red present with bowThe holidays are a great time to spend time with family and friends and show your appreciation for others by exchanging thoughtful gifts. However, planning, locating, and purchasing those gifts can become quite the ordeal if you begin your hunt too late into the season. There is nothing wrong with waiting until the last minute to purchase gifts. However, it can take away from the joy of the season if you take time off to wait in line for that toy your child wants so badly instead of something that matters more to you.

So, where do you start when trying to shop early? It is always important to begin your shopping by listing off all those you intend to shop for. Take your time thinking through each person in your life and whether you wish to give them a gift. This gives you a clear picture on how many gifts you will need and how to consolidate your trips and budget.

The next step is to determine your budget for gifts. You can do this one of two ways; set aside a little each month to build a budget, like with our Holiday club account, or borrow from your savings account, or a small personal loan, that you intend to pay back over the next year.

Once you have your full budget you can determine how to distribute that across all those you intend to purchase for. This doesn’t have to be evenly; you will probably want to spend more on some people than others. Doing this can help you see if you can spend more on someone close to you or show you that you might want to aim for a more cost-effective gift for some. You might even consider something small for more distant connections, such as a card or a homemade gift.

Now that you know how much you intend to spend on each person you can begin to get specific with your gift ideas. Think about what that person finds important and try to see if they mention something they want. Picking what to get each person can seem like the most difficult task. You want to be sure it is something they want, but not something they want so bad they will go out and get it themselves. This can be especially difficult with adults since it is easier for them to go out and purchase what they need and want. It can be helpful to check in to make sure they have not bought that gift yet and if they have it will allow you to think of something else.

For certain items that are non-perishable, the day after Christmas is a great time to search for some stocking stuffer sales. It seems a bit early, but you can get items that are seasonally specific at a large discount. However, make sure not to purchase expensive items or items that might go out of style quickly, like video games, this far in advance. This is because with expensive items they typically have shorter return or exchange windows, and a new gaming system could come out making the video games obsolete next year. However, smaller things like phone chargers, fuzzy socks, gift wrap and bags will remain usable until the next year.

You will probably want to begin saving as early as January for the next year, but for most items you can wait to until August or September to begin planning. Stay alert for good sales, such as end of summer sales to catch a few items in advance. Many people like to wait for the black Friday deals, but you may be able to find similar if not better deals in September and October with smaller lines and quicker delivery time frames. For larger items that might need to be returned, check the store policy, and purchase the items with enough time so they person who received the gift has the option to return or exchange it if needed. For things like drinks and non-perishable foods, consider purchasing them in early November to save waiting in long lines and ensuring they are available.

For perishable items or customized items, like cakes and pre-ordered pies, make sure to place the order late November and call to check on the order a few days ahead of time. For some perishable foods you normally buy the day before, such as a ham or turkey, it might be possible to order them in advance and pick them up a day or two before the holiday.

If you decide to shop early this year or next, be sure to find good hiding locations for your gifts and label them properly if you wrap them up. You would not want to realize the day before that you do not know whose gift is who’s in the pile or find out your children found all their presents. However, even with these risks by shopping early, you will be saving time from waiting in lines, money from catching some sales, stress from being able to find all the gifts you wanted and getting them in on time. You also might be able to do more of the light festivals you have been dreaming of or attend a few more cookie sales with your extra time. If you forget, at least you will not be the only one and you might get some great stories to tell.

Happy shopping and happy holidays!

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