It is officially my favorite time of year! Christmas is only a few short weeks away and I am so happy! I love Christmas so much. I love the lights, the music and movies, the food, being able to spend time with family. I love all of it. Of course, the reason for the season as well. It is a great time to slow down and reflect on the true meaning of Christmas, the birth of Jesus Christ.
Even though Thanksgiving has already past, I love that the Christmas season allows me to sit back and see just how blessed I am. I have an amazing husband and family (including my two doggos), we are financially stable (and getting even more stable as time passes), have great friends, and are in good health. You can read more about what I am thankful for here.
With the Christmas season comes Christmas shopping! I feel almost feel bad to be talking about shopping for “stuff” right after discussing how thankful I am for what I have. But, here I am. 😊 Buying presents for my loved ones is one of my favorite things to do in the world! I love to spoil everyone rotten. I do my best to buy things, and bake/make things for those I care about.
This Christmas some of our friends and my hubby and I are doing a Christmas box exchange. We all live in different parts of the country, so we have to ship our gifts. Our friends each have some special baked goods that they are famous for in their families. I have some knockout recipes as well. So, we will be “trading” baked goods to each other. Because it’s me, I will also be throwing in a couple other goodies for them to enjoy throughout the year.
I have to be careful when I am Christmas shopping because I could buy out an entire store for gifts for my loved ones. I have learned many lessons through the years. Some lessons are on self-control while others are for how to shop smarter. I am going to share those lessons with you today!
How to Christmas Shop
Christmas shopping is an art form and it isn’t for the weak! 😀 It really does take a certain amount of planning and dedication to be able to do it the right way.
Set a Budget
First and foremost, you MUST set a budget. No one should be going into debt to shop for Christmas. If you have a very tight budget, it might be easier to save up a certain dollar figure each paycheck dedicated to that year’s Christmas shopping. Be sure to talk with your spouse before hand and settle on a goal amount you would like to have saved up for Christmas. Be sure to create a rough list of who you want to shop for and set a budget off of what you are able to do and who all you are shopping for. Some years will have more money than others, that happens.
I will say that doing this is easier said than done. I ended up going over our budget a few times when we set money aside for Christmas. I didn’t go crazy, but I was definitely over budget. This year, we did not set any money aside, but I have a number I absolutely cannot go over each paycheck for Christmas shopping.
While I may not be in the ideal situation for Christmas shopping, there should still always be an understanding that a budget (however rough it is) must be followed. You are doing yourself and others a disservice if you go into debt to buy presents.
We get bombarded with ads and sales throughout the entire week of Thanksgiving in preparation for Black Friday. I love the Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales. I also do my best to support local businesses on Small Business Saturday. However, Christmas shoppers need to make sure they pace themselves when shopping for their loved ones.
First, if you are like me and did not save throughout the year for Christmas shopping, then you only have so much extra funds on hand during the sales. Take advantage of the sales for the largest ticket items that you KNOW you are going to buy for your loved one. But, you do not HAVE to buy everything on Thanksgiving weekend.
Next, depending on what you are buying, there might be a better deal later on, or a new version of what you want to buy will be released closer to Christmas. Or, if you are only buying a finite number of gifts per person this year, you might find something better and you wish you had waited. I am guilty of that one. Last year I bought all of my hubby’s gifts in a span of two weeks. I settled on a pair of slippers for him because they were marked down. They weren’t quite what he was wanting, but close enough. About a week before Christmas, I found the exact pair that he wanted, and they were marked down to the same price I paid for the ones I already had. I was unable to return the first pair.
Start Christmas Shopping Early
My mom used to brag about how she would be done with her Christmas shopping before Thanksgiving even happened when I was growing up. This was before internet shopping became as big a deal as it is now. Same with Black Friday shopping and sales. My mom would have some money set aside throughout the year for Christmas and when a sale would happen throughout the year, she would take advantage of it and hide the gift until Christmas. If you have the space to hide presents, I think shopping throughout the entire year is a great idea. I have places to hide the gifts, but it would kill me to have to wait too long to give the gifts I bought for my family.
Try not to buy something the first time you see it. Of course, with anything there are exceptions. If it is a popular product and it is on sale and/or you have a coupon, it probably won’t hurt to buy it when you see it. There is nothing like waiting too long to buy something and then you cannot find it anywhere. But, for the most part, take the time to check prices at multiple locations. The item you are looking for might be sold at multiple locations. One location might have a sale, but another has a better sale AND you have a coupon! But, had you not taken the time to look elsewhere, you might not have known about the sale or coupon.
This goes hand in hand with pacing yourself when shopping. While Thanksgiving weekend is full of sales, that does not mean that all of the deals will be that weekend. Some stores will have similar markdowns for the entire time leading to Christmas. Looking in multiple locations might eat a lot of your time. But, if you have some time to spare, it can save you a lot of money.
Shopping online has been a lifesaver for me. When we lived overseas, it allowed us to buy all kinds of things that we didn’t have access to at our base exchange or in stores downtown. Online shopping is still helpful today! I would say 80% of my Christmas presents were purchased online this year.
Online shopping allows you to look at multiple stores in a matter of minutes to find the best deals. Unless the product is very popular, it is hard to be completely out of it. Or, if one store is out of the product online, you can easily move on to another store to find what you are looking for. The best thing about online shopping is that you do not have to worry about the crowds. Also, if you want to shop at 3 a.m. you still can, just in your pajamas with a nice cup of coffee and a Christmas movie playing in the background.
You can also support local and small businesses online now as well!
Join Any Free Program
Nearly every store out there has some kind of program now. I have accounts with every store I shop at. These accounts let me earn special discounts that only members receive. A lot of programs allow you to earn points for every dollar you spend with them that can then be converted into a cash value that can be used in later purchases. Some stores also offer members free shipping. That especially comes in handy when you shop online!
Last year I opened an account with Rakuten. It came in handy during my Christmas shopping last year. If you are not familiar with Rakuten, it is a cash back program that pays you to shop. They are partnered with all kinds of popular stores and offer cash back on your purchases. They have online and in store promotions that you can take advantage of. Joining Rakuten is free and you can download a plugin to your web browser. When you are shopping online, Rakuten will pop-up to let you know if you can earn cash back with a purchase from that particular store.
With Rakuten, you can also get access to special coupons. They will also help you find other coupons and deals that the website might have that you weren’t even aware of.
Rakuten keeps track of all of your purchases and sends you a check four times a year. I just got my last check two weeks ago and I have already earned $15 back from my Christmas shopping!
Amazon Prime is NOT a free subscription or membership program. However, Amazon offers all kinds of discounts or payment plans to pay for membership. Amazon Prime is $119 for the year (I know, that is pricy, but if you’re interested, look at the discounts and payment plans they offer. It’s worth it!). For that dollar figure, you get 365 days of access to Prime discounts and coupons as well as free shipping. Some items can be shipped to you the day you order it! If you are not in a rush with shipping, you can select the slower methods and sometimes earn money for future Amazon purchases. With the annual subscription you also get access to Amazon’s streaming service and access to Amazon music.
The subscription is worth it for my family because of the money we save on the shipping costs alone! But I must warn you, it can be addictive to find anything you are looking for in one simple search.
Who to Shop For
Now that you know how to shop for Christmas, it is time to discuss who to shop for.
It can be very hard, but you do have to set limits on who it is you will be shopping for each year. The list may grow or shrink each year, so it is good to sit down and think about who you will need so Christmas shop for. Just remember that you cannot buy a present for every single person you know.
My hubby and I both come from big families, and it is impossible for us to buy Christmas presents special for each person we are related to. Just because we are related does not mean that you will be getting a present.
How to Keep the Christmas List Short
I hate that I have to set limits in who I Christmas shop for. But, out budget does not allow us to shop for everyone. But, how do I decide who gets a gift and who doesn’t? Well, for me, I cut the list down to gifting people who put an effort in being part of our lives. A lot of our relatives live quite a distance away from us. But, the ones who take the time to call or text us or are there for us when we need them will be on the list for Christmas gifts. I have several relatives who couldn’t be bothered to even send a quick text or message through Facebook on my birthday even when I have put a lot of effort in trying to maintain a relationship with them. So, they are not on the Christmas shopping list.
It shouldn’t have to be said, but I will say it anyway; you do not give gifts to get gifts in return. That is not what should motivate you to buy a Christmas present for someone. However, if you know that a person wouldn’t even be thinking about you during this holiday season, it is safe to say that they won’t be missing a gift from you either. If they are expecting something from you, then that is a them problem, not yours. That is a lesson that took me a long time to learn.
Some People May Be Left Out
People will be left out every single year. It cannot be helped. The years with the tighter budgets mean even fewer people get Christmas presents from you and that is okay. Most years, we really aren’t able to buy gifts for anyone outside of our home. But there are some ways to mitigate that.
Spread the Christmas Cheer
There are still ways to help keep people from feeling left out during the holiday season. You can plan an event with several of your friends. It could be potluck style where each person or couple brings a dish for everyone to share. Then after dinner, everyone can catch up or play holiday themed games. If you are crafty or know how to bake, you can make gifts to give to co-workers and it might be less expensive than buying them all Christmas gifts.
I would also recommend that you invest in some Christmas cards each year. There are sites like Vistaprint and Shutterfly that will make custom Christmas cards for you to send to all of your loved ones. These cards will give you the opportunity to share recent photos and write a little Christmas letter to share with anyone and everyone you want to share with. The best part is that there are always sales going on that you will be able to buy enough cards for everyone. Sending these cards can help people know that you are thinking of them and care about them.
What to Shop For
Now that you know how to Christmas shop and who to shop for, what should you shop for?
Christmas Gifts for Immediate Family
For me, my immediate family are family members that live in my home with me.
Something They Want
It is important to ask family members what they would like to have for Christmas each year. A lot of times, you might already know from chats throughout the year. For my family, the wants usually to consist of some kind of gadget, cooking appliance, music, movies, etc.
Something They Need
Needs change every year. When my hubby was in school, he needed pens and pencils, highlighters, notebooks, and coffee! So, yes, I would gift wrap highlighters for him. But, I would put some effort in finding him a nice notebook or a really nice writing pen for him to use.
My mom has a chronic pain condition, so she needs all things warm and cozy. Her legs can cramp sometimes. So, I could buy her some really nifty compression socks (they actually make some cute ones now) or some heating pads for her to microwave and use when she needs it.
My dad travels a lot, so he needs a travel neck pillow and an e-reader to use during his flights.
Something They Wear
I will absolutely buy every member of my family socks and underwear. This is also where you can buy your loved ones some new pajamas. Let’s face it, you can never have too many pajamas! This is also a time when you can buy your loved one some new shoes they were eyeing or another pair of their favorite work pants. Christmas shopping is when I stock up on clothes for my hubby because most of the stores have amazing deals on what he loves to wear to work.
Something They Read
My family does a lot of reading. We are all nerds. So, we all usually are gifted several books on Christmas. My dad loves all things history and military history. He also likes to read biographies and memoirs from military and political leaders. My hubby is an IT guy and loves to read about new advancements in his field. He also likes reading Tom Clancy novels or anything similar to them. My mom likes self-help books and anything about art. I love Cecelia Ahern and historical fiction novels. I would say we have a very interesting library in our house.
I do recommend an Audible subscription for those who want to read but cannot seem to find the time to sit down and read. I purchased a subscription for my husband for our anniversary and he has loved it! He is able to listen to audiobooks while he is driving to and from work and while he is working out. It really is a great investment and is something that can be used throughout the entire year.
Material items can be great Christmas presents. But, I think experiences make amazing gifts as well. If budget allows, plan a family vacation for shortly after the holidays for the whole family to take part in. Those memories will last a lifetime. If the budget is tight, maybe buy a family member a gift certificate for a cooking or art class. If your spouse loves going to the movies, buy a gift card for the local movie theater. If you know your wife’s favorite musician or musical is coming to town, then two tickets to the show would make an amazing present!
In our family, tickets to the San Antonio Rodeo has been gifted every year since we moved here. This year is no different!
Christmas Gifts for Extended Family and Friends
Gifts for extended family and friends may not be as numerous as those for immediate family.
For extended family, I like to make photo albums or collages to send to let them know what we have been up to throughout the year.
For friends, I like to give them gift cards for things that they enjoy. If budget allows, it will usually be a gift card for a manicure or pedicure or a gift card to their favorite coffee place.
Remember Where You Hid Everything
Now that you have purchased everything, you have to find places to hide them throughout your house. It is very important that you remember where you hide all of your gifts. You do not want to do like I have done in the past.
Several times in my life I have completely forgotten about some Christmas gifts I have bought for my family entirely because they were hidden so well. Other times, I knew that I bought them, but just couldn’t find them for the life of me. I would usually find these lost Christmas gifts when my family was moving. I would be cleaning out my closet or the coat closet and would find things that I had hidden for my parents. So, I would give the gifts to my parents the day I find them and say “Merry Christmas! Six months later!” Oops!
So, be sure you find a good hiding spot for all of your gifts. But, make sure you can find the gifts later on. Maybe set a notification when it is time to wrap all the gifts with a note in where you hid them. I don’t want all of your hard work to go to waste!
Christmas shopping can be a daunting task for some people. Others treat it like an Olympic sport. Wherever you fall on the spectrum, be sure you make the Christmas shopping experience something that you enjoy. It really shouldn’t have to be a chore. It should be fun and make you excited for the holiday!
Question of the Week
Is Christmas shopping an extreme sport for you or are you more laid back?