Here's the scenario: It's December 24th at about 5pm. The weather is cold, the sky is dark. You slept through Black Friday, worked through Cyber Monday and now you're rushing to the mall to finish your holiday shopping. But instead of actually rushing, you're sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic with other folks who are on the same errand.
You arrive completely frazzled, only to find yourself pushing through throngs of people who also waited until the last minute, and you're all vying for the same picked-over merchandise. Sound familiar? If so, we're here to offer you a ground-breaking concept: You don't have to wait until the holidays to do your holiday shopping. And the best part is, if you do your shopping year round, not only will you roll into the holidays laden with lots of gifts and little stress, but you'll also be able to save some money in the process. Now, we've got your attention.
Budgeting for Holiday Shopping All Year Round
One of the great things about planning ahead for your holiday shopping is that you have plenty of time to find the perfect gifts at the best prices. You can keep an eye on your list throughout the year and spring for the purchase when the price is right.
The first part of creating any budget is making a list of what you need to buy. The holidays are great times to gather gift ideas for your nearest and dearest because you can see what they get that they really like and take notes for future gift giving. Don't forget to include people like your babysitters and teachers, and it's not a bad idea to have a couple generic gifts on hand for last minute occasions.
As far as the saving money part goes, the first place you should start is your wallet. You know all of those unused or partially used gift cards? These are great for boosting your budget and saving on your bottom line. Credit card rewards points are also great to use if you want to save some of that hard-earned cash. Subscribe to daily deal sites like Groupon and Living Social, where you can get great merchandise and services for half the cost. On the heels of daily deals are flash sale sites, like Totsy, where you can buy items on the cheap for a limited time.
Look through the circulars and store ads that you get in the mail for coupons. With the economy still on the rise, many big box stores have regular coupon offerings throughout the year. If you're mainly an Internet shopper, always be on the lookout for free shipping deals that accompany sales. That will save you 10 to 20 percent right off the bat.
Where and When to Get the Best Deals on Gifts
If you're not a big plan ahead type of person by nature, it probably seems like a foreign concept to go shopping right after Christmas to start stocking up on gifts for next year. But everyone knows that next to Black Friday, that's when the best sales are. Between Christmas and the New Year, stores are trying to unload excess merchandise so they can increase their profits before the year end and have fewer items to inventory. That means that they're offering all kinds of great deals.
But if that's way too much planning head, it's OK to start with baby steps. Seasonal merchandise always goes on sale toward the end of each season, so if some of the items on your list are games for the yard or ski equipment, be sure to check stores at the end of summer and winter, respectively.
Are you more of a handmade-gift-giving type of gal? If you're not so big on the big box stores, Etsy.com is chock full of handmade and vintage gifts and many are extremely affordable. If you want even better bargains, albeit a more limited selection, Heartsy is a daily deal site that strictly promotes handmade items. The only gifts that may not apply in your "get 'er done early" scenario is shopping for kids. Kids grow too willy-nilly to plan a year ahead for clothes and shoes, and any toy fads that thrill them this year will probably be well behind them by the next holiday season.
- "Christmas in July: How to shop for the holidays and save your sanity." Beautifulfrugallife.com. October 1, 2011. http://www.beautifulfrugallife.com/2011/08/christmas-in-july-how-to-shop-for-the-holidays-and-save-your-sanity/