Advent, the Christian Church's Season of waiting for the birth of Jesus, historically has been about creating space and making room. But often our holiday traditions fill our schedules and exhaust our wallets completely. It's not too late to finish your Christmas shopping early this year and enjoy the month of December spending time with family and friends, not your minivan and your to-do lists.
Some people are just good at it. They purchase half-price decorations right after Christmas, and pick up gifts for people year-round, spreading out both the cost and the stress in order to enjoy the holiday season. This isn't you? Fear not! Here are some easy strategies to start and finish your Christmas shopping early this year.
This month, right now, before you begin or buy anything, make a plan for your Christmas shopping and schedule. Sit down with your budget and calendar and make a list of people you will be buying gifts for, holiday events you will be bringing food to, and parties that require host gifts. Decide if you will be doing Christmas cards and how much you will spend. Think about special movies or theme parks such as Busch Gardens Christmas Town that you will be visiting. Inevitably, the holidays cost more, not only because we buy more, but because we DO more. Make a plan.
The temptation will always be to do more, buy more, add more. But in order to experience the benefits of finishing your Christmas shopping early, make it a practice to take things off your list. Make subtraction the new addition. After you make your plan, think again about past holiday rituals and expenses. Worth it? Make mindful choices about how you will and will not use your time and money during the Christmas season, even if it means not doing something you have done before.
Create categories of Christmas gift-giving and then purchase the entire category at once. Buy teachers a variation of the same item, be it a gift card or stationary, or gourmet food. Buy for your children according to categories, such as a game, an outdoor activity, pajamas, toys, ornament, and/or something for their bedroom. Purchase these categories in clusters, checking them off your list systematically.
Festive wrapping paper is often on sale when it first arrives at the store, BEFORE the Christmas rush. Stock up. As soon as you know what kinds of batteries you may need for any gadget gifts, buy them. There never seems to be enough Scotch tape around here when I wrap. Buy/order in bulk so you are not forced to do a late-night drive to Walgreens when you will pay whatever it costs. Stocking stuffers are often left to the last minute. In November, grab favorite small items before they are categorized as stocking stuffers, and the price inflated.
Love the mall and the outlets? Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, provides real deals. But if you begin your holiday shopping early, be sure to study advertisements so that you have a plan for what you need to get on these days. Do not wake up early to wander for the sake of the shopping experience.
Hate the mall, crowds, and shopping centers? Use Cyber Monday, the Monday after Thanksgiving, as the finish line for your shopping, not the starting point. Favorite online retailers offer great coupons and deals to shoppers. But remember, you are working your plan. Cyber Monday could be when you order the snow boots that he is getting or the Harry Potter Lego Set she desperately wants. You can purchase the perfect gift at a great discount but do not lose hours hunting for something one-of-a-kind. Finishing shopping early requires creating a plan and committing to it.
Many credit cards offer point systems through which you can earn cash throughout the year. Do you have a plan for these points? Consider designating money earned through points towards your Christmas budget or one category. Having a plan for the points and Christmas shopping helps ensure you will stay within parameters.
Inevitably, costs pop up. If you have utilized sales and other strategies before December 1, declare your shopping done, but leave yourself wiggle room just in case. A last-minute party invite or White Elephant game should not wreck the plan if you leave a bit of your budget for miscellaneous items.
Buying things requires wrapping and storage, which take up space and time in the Christmas season. Consider giving the gift of experiences that provide shared memories and do not require additional tape, bows, or back-of-the-closet hiding places until Christmas Day.
Are you a baker? Are you crafty? If you are -great! There are endless gift ideas that you can create and give without purchasing more than a few ingredients and supplies. But if you are not gifted in these ways, don't try. Chances are you will end up buying something to make up for a botched craft or baked good, doubling costs and time. Know yourself and write a heartfelt note, or stock up on already-wrapped soaps from TJ Maxx. Finishing Christmas shopping early means naming our limitations in both budget, time, and person. Celebrate the freedom of knowing what kind of gifts you ARE good at giving - the recipients will appreciate it more.
This seems obvious, but for some, starting Christmas shopping early means you simply Christmas shop longer. Be fine with finishing, and staying finished. Practice saying "This is enough," and celebrate the space you have created in your Christmas Season all through the month of December and into the New Year.
This Christmas Season, be radical and create space instead of hurry. Enjoy celebrating relationships as you shop for friends and family, but finish Christmas shopping early this year and enjoy being present and peaceful throughout the holidays.