T’was the night before Christmas, and I was incredibly unprepared for the following day’s festivities. Despite my best intentions to get my shopping done early and enjoy a quiet Christmas Eve in front of the fire, I found myself in a mall.
I dashed from store to store in a frenzy, not at all sure what I was looking for. I needed something—anything—for my dad, brother, and sister-in-law. As I weaved my way through the Christmas Eve crowds and entered what felt like was the fiftieth store, I was hit by a feeling of hopelessness. Tired, hungry, and longing for my couch and a cup of hot cocoa, I admitted defeat, bought them a few gift cards, and went home.
Now, there’s nothing wrong with gift cards, but I’d intended to get my loved ones something unique, thoughtful, and altogether perfect for them. Plus, the stress I put myself through that evening was something I really didn’t want to go through again. So, since that fated Christmas Eve, I have vowed to get all my shopping done before December each year.
If you want to beat the crowds this Christmas and actually be able to enjoy the season without stressing about last-minute shopping, learn how to get your Christmas shopping done early. I’m going to share my five easy tips and trips for pre-Thanksgiving gift buying so you can put your feet up on Christmas Eve, instead of into your running shoes.
How to Get Your Christmas Shopping Done Early This Year
Before I hop into my tips and tricks for getting your Christmas shopping done early this year, I want to elaborate on an idea I mentioned above—focusing on be prepared pre-Thanksgiving. For me, setting this festive weekend as my deadline for finishing my Christmas shopping has not only been essential to my enjoyment of the holiday season, but it gives me a tangible goal. Having a due-date for your shopping is necessary in order for the rest of these tips to work. So, flag the date in your calendar, set weekly reminders, and do whatever you have to in order to stick to it.
With that foundational step in mind, here are my 5 best tips for how to get your gifting done and dusted early this year.
Tip #1: Budget in Advance so You Can Afford to Shop Early
I’m not someone who’s going to recommend that you start your shopping for next year on Boxing Day, but I am going to suggest that you come up with a budget plan in January that will ensure you have enough money saved to start your shopping in September.
One of the reasons I was so behind with my shopping that dreadful year was because I didn’t have enough money to get it all done early and had to wait until my mid-December paycheck to buy the bulk of my gifts. Of course, I realized after the fact that this could have been avoided with a little advanced budgeting.
Fall is a pricey time of year. Back to school supplies, fall wardrobe upgrades, and pumpkin spice lattes all add up quickly, so make sure you’re ahead of the game by using an intuitive budgeting app (I like Mint) to set yourself up for success. Figure out how much money you’d like to spend on gifts, install your app of choice on your smartphone, make a savings plan, and stick to it! Plus, if you aim to have your Christmas shopping money saved up by the beginning of September, you’ll be able to take advantage of back-to-school sales!
Tip #2: Implement Wish Lists to Easily Christmas Shop Early
Have you ever noticed that the shopping you leave until the last minute is usually for the people who are the toughest to buy for? There’s a reason I had to run out on Christmas Eve to find gifts for my dad, sister-in-law, and brother—I never know what to get them!
Luckily, I’ve got a solution for this problem: use online wish lists. At the beginning of September, send out an email to all the friends and family you intend to buy gifts for and invite each of them to make an online Christmas wish list. Let them know that you’re aiming to get your shopping done early this year, and you want to make sure that you get each of them something they’ll really love.
Once they’ve made their lists, you can scroll through them and find something that catches your eye (and fits your predetermined budget). When you’ve decided which gift to purchase for each person, compile a checklist so you can cross things off as you shop. No more guessing games or wracking your brain for creative gift ideas!
Tip #3: Do Your Early Christmas Shopping Online
I’ll be honest, shopping is really not my thing; if you love weaving through throngs of people and wandering from store to store carrying heavy bags, feel free to disregard this tip. In my experience, the people who like to shop aren’t typically the ones who need motivation to get their Christmas shopping done early anyway.
By doing your shopping online, you can bypass the malls and save a ton of time. Plus, it’s super simple to search for exactly what you’re looking for without running across town to track the item down in stores. And, if you order a bunch of your gifts from a one-stop shopping website like Amazon, you can take advantage of free shipping offers.
Tip #4: Schedule Shopping Time Early and Often
Unless you put aside time in your schedule to accomplish your Christmas shopping, chances are you’re not going to do it. Even if you’re planning to take the above advice and do all your shopping online, I still recommend scheduling time in your calendar to get it done.
Carve out an hour on your calendar every week starting in September to either plop yourself down in front of the computer or hit the mall and get as much done as you can. Use your master list (you know, the one you made of everyone’s wish list items) and cross things off as you go. You’ll be finished before you know it!
Tip #5: Start DIY Christmas Gifts Earlier Than Halloween
I used to be notorious for having all these lofty aspirations for DIY Christmas gifts, only to run out of time to actually get them finished before the holidays. But now, I have a system. I plan out my DIY projects in June so that I can use the leisurely summer months to get a jump on things. This year, I’ve already gotten a head start on my DIY gifts and they are looking fine!
For each DIY gift you intend to make, set a realistic (and generous) timeline from start to finish. This way, you can actually enjoy the process without being rushed. You don’t want to have to pull a DIY all-nighter on Christmas Eve, after all.
Bonus Tip: Cut Down on Christmas Shopping by Throwing a Secret Santa Gift Exchange
Sometimes, Christmas shopping can be pretty overwhelming—even if you do get a jump on it early. For me, the past few Christmases have been financially stressful. Buying gifts for everyone in a big family like mine is not easy on the wallet, and all that shopping is a big time commitment.
If you can relate, my advice is to hold a Secret Santa gift exchange this year instead of traditional gift giving. You could even spice things up with a super fun White Elephant exchange! Either way, each person only has to buy one gift, and they can spend the money on something that person truly wants and needs.
Once you make sure everyone is on board with the idea, get your gift exchange started by using an online Secret Santa generator. This nifty tool will assign Secret Santas, help you to send email invites, and set spending limits so that all your family members are on the same page. Who knows, this might become your new Christmas tradition!
Perhaps the most important thing to remember when it comes to Christmas shopping is that the true spirit of Christmas doesn’t come from a store. Maintaining a joyful, festive spirit while spending quality time with loved ones is truly what makes Christmas magical. After all, that’s the best gift you can give—and it most certainly cannot be bought.
For Christmas gift ideas for everyone in your family, check out Elfster’s fantabulous Gift Guides. You can also connect with Elfster on Facebook, on Twitter @Elfster, or on Instagram @Elfster.