Early Christmas Shopping (Twelve Weeks of Christmas Preview)

Have you started your holiday shopping yet?

Today is September 26th, which means we are three months away from Christmas!   This may seem like a light year away, especially when you break it down:  that’s 13 weeks or 91 days away; that’s Halloween and then Thanksgiving; that’s the ENTIRE season of Fall; that’s one semester or two quarters of school.  It seems so far away…

However, if you are like me, you are already brainstorming about Christmas gifts, and not for what I want — though I have already set my sights on one thing in particular in case Santa is reading this – but rather what I want to give to other people, i.e., loved ones, charitable causes, et al.

Planning early helps me to avoid the last minute Christmas shopping trips (super stressful!) and rather, stretch out the gift acquisition over the course of 13 weeks.  I say gift acquisition all italicized-like because I do not just buy gifts — I also try to MAKE THEM. And not just things like the macaroni angel ornament you made in elementary school, though those were undoubtedly charming in their time.  Gifts that make the recipient go “You made this?  Really??”

So before the gift acquisition phase can commence (that sounds so sci-fi/fantasy!), here are some tips and tricks to help you find/make the best gifts without incurring ANY additional credit card debt — No really!

In this picture I was probably thinking about making lists, thus the happy expression.

  1.         List all your family to whom you will actually be giving gifts.  This list will typically include mom(s), dad(s), your spouse/life partner, boyfriend/girlfriend, children, in-laws, maybe grandparents?  If your extended family is like my extended family, we usually draw names and the name you get is the person to whom you give a gift, with a monetary limit of usually $35-50.  This may seem weird but really turns out to be a lot more fun in the long run (See!  I come from a long line of penny pinchers!)
  2.        List all of your friends to whom you will be giving gifts.
  3.        List all of your acquaintances to whom you will be giving gifts.  This may have caused some of you to do a double-take, but think about it: Do you have a relationship with any particular person in your life that provides you a consistent service?  Examples could include: your mail man/woman, your exterminator (if you own a house and actually have conversations with your exterminator, like my mother), your hairdresser/barber, your children’s dance/karate/music/whatever-kids-are-doing-nowadays instructors and classroom teachers, and potentially more.  Because I live in an apartment and do not have children, I don’t have a lot of relationships, if any at all, with a lot of the typical “service providers.”  If you do, you should definitely considering giving them a little something.  This does not have to be anything big, but considering most of these people are grossly underpaid – and I speak as a dance instructor and the daughter of a teacher – it’s definitely a nice gesture that is ALWAYS appreciated.  More on this in a future blog.
  4.        After you have made your three lists, go through each name and figure out what you might want to give them.  You do not have to decide it all in one sitting, but it’s good to have a general idea, especially for members of your immediate family and closest friends, as these people will probably get the biggest gifts and therefore the most gift acquisition attention (that’s right, I brought it back).  Don’t necessarily limit yourself by budget, because there is almost always a way to find what you are looking for in your price range (though if are actor-style poor, you probably can’t get everyone in your immediate family a 42” flat screen TV, but I feel like that goes without saying). 
  5.        From this list of gift ideas, figure out which of these things you could realistically make.  Before you pooh-pooh the possibility of making something, Google it.  The affordable options to hand-making – without need of expensive tools– might surprise you, especially if you keep reading this blog for the next 12 weeks. (Hint.)
  6.       From this list of gift ideas, figure out which of these things you couldn’t possibly make, e.g., a computer (the exceptions are rare enough that they are not worth mentioning).
  7.        Plan when to purchase/make these items. 

In the case of electronics, I think it is wisest to wait until Black Friday week.  I say the week and not just the day because stores will often have similar sales during Thanksgiving week and not just the following day.  However, if you know you are not going to feel up to braving Black Friday, your best bet for good deals on electronics would be online shopping.  (Future blog  comin’ at ‘cha!)

In the case of everything else, unless it is a baked good (which always make good gifts for extended family and people on your “acquaintances” list), you can buy these things in advance, which leads me to number

8.       Buy at least ONE ITEM A WEEK from now until Christmas.  This is the most valuable and time tested advice I can offer.  I am never broke by the time I get to Christmas, I have never accrued (additional) credit card debt, and I have never had the excuse of not having enough money to get my loved ones what I want.  Christmas comes on the same day every year; it is not a ninja holiday like Easter, i.e., it doesn’t sneak up on you in the dead of night and say “Here I am!”  (“What?  But it’s like February, right?”).

9.       Save a few items to buy for the week of Christmas.  This is more of a girly, sentimental thing and not really necessary, but I really love going Christmas shopping when it is actually Christmas time!  I love the decorations, the music, the chill in the air, ya know.  And because I have paced myself, Christmas shopping is neither stressful nor depressing, and I don’t have to wander aimlessly, trying to get ideas because I already know what I want (and I’ve already gotten most of what I wanted previously).

10.   If you have items that you plan to make (and I really hope you do because these are the best!) start making those sooner rather than later.  When I make things for people, I tend to not subscribe to this philosophy as much as I should, and I nearly always regret it.  Lesson learned, don’t procrastinate!

11.   Refer to #8.  No really.  Best advice ever and I just gave it to you for free (and that’s a good deal).

(Most bloggers will only give you a list of ten tips/tricks, but I just blew your face off with eleven.  Right?!)

For those still resisting handmade gifts, I hear your hesitation and I understand — I used to feel the same way!  However, over the course of the next twelve weeks, I hope to change your mind with my first ever series (“Wait, she can’t do a series yet!  She just started this blog?!?!  Who does she think she is?  Miss Interwebs?!”)   . . . AND the series will be entitled:

“The Twelve Weeks of Christmas”   (because what else was I gonna call it?)

Each week I will offer one tutorial on a handmade gift (yippee!) as well as tips/tricks for getting good deals, online shopping, etc.

For my loyal tens of subscribers — in 8 different states and 3 different countries – wha??– DON’T WORRY.  This will not be like when your local department store puts their Christmas decorations on sale in July, because that’s just wrong; this will not be a non-stop Christmas fest and the series won’t be more than one post a week so . . . ya know . . . relax.

And if you’re Jewish and don’t do the Christmas thing, just insert the word Channukah every time you read the word Christmas, and then multiply times eight (haha).

Stay tuned and SUBSCRIBE! —>