It’s the beginning of November, but I already feel the holiday spirit and I keep on singing Christmas carols in my head. I love everything about the winter holidays: the Christmas tree, the decorations, the little souvenirs in the shop windows, the holy scenes arranged under the tree, the songs, the cheer and joy, the anticipation of family dinners and, of course, presents!
I don’t think there’s one single person on Earth who doesn’t like Christmas presents. Because, what’s better than a Christmas-morning feeling, looking under the tree, finding and opening that box that has your name tag on it. Absolutely everything is special about the Christmas morning, and the gifts are a huge part of its magic.
All of this is great, but we often underestimate the flip side of the coin, which is – gift planning and shopping.
I used to adore the process of gift hunting, thinking what would my parents, sister or friends want to receive, running to different places to get them, what I thought was the perfect present for them. Fast-forward into my adulthood, I dread the holiday preparations even more than I dread dealing with a screaming toddler. So, a couple of years ago I tried some new tricks that I want to share with you, hoping that this holiday season will be easier and less stressful for you too.
So here’s your cheat sheet:
Time-wise speaking, it’s never too early to start Christmas shopping. I begin the entire preparations process after the first week of November, so that to give myself room to think clearly, but also to come up with a plan A and a plan B (just in case). I work up an agenda for what I need to do and buy, and I decide what and when to do. I make a list of people we need to buy presents for and I start researching possible gifts. When I go on weekly grocery shopping, I sometimes see something interesting that can be a gift for someone, and I buy it right away. I prefer to have all the gifts purchased by the end of November, because there’s a greater possibility to find better stuff at really lower prices, compared to December, when stores inflate the prices to give us the false sense of buying everything on sale. Also, this little trick means that 70% of the work is done, while allowing me to concentrate in December on things like the holiday menu and activities. #funtime
Plan your budget!
With this, I don’t mean only saying “Oh, I’ll spend only 300$ on the gifts”, but rather planning and foreseeing everything, from parties you have to attend and little gifts you have to bring, to work-related events you need to be at, unforeseen situations like stopping by some old friend’s house who decided to invite you this year to their last-minute party, little weekend getaways even if only for 1 day or 2, daycare/school things if you have kids, and even up to your outfit and manicure. Trust me, you’ll be surprised how much money you can spend in only 2 weeks, without you even realizing it (except when January comes and you need to cover your credit card bills or other expenditures)!
Splitting your purchases into 2 months won’t have a devastating impact on your monthly budget, and it will take you almost no time to recover financially after the holidays are over.
Having a plan for your expenses will allow you to adjust your budget to what works for you, as well as give you a good image of what to expect during the holiday season, making it more manageable and enjoyable.
Plan your time!
I strongly suggest you take my advice on this one, because, just like money, time will fly like it wasn’t even there. Dedicate 3 or 4 weekends to do the tasks specifically related to the holidays. For example, research your gifts online/in stores’ weekly flyers/etc. and go shopping on one weekend. The other week, think about the decorations or small things you need to buy for the house/for the parties/Christmas tree/postcards/etc. and accomplish your plan at the end of the week. Another week, think about your holiday’s menu, family trips, and so on and so forth. It might seem too spread out and too much of a hustle, but, believe me, it will pay off during those weeks spent with your family and friends. Most of people will be running in frenzy to try to catch up with everything, while you will be the one having all under check with only final touches left to do. Spreading your holiday plan throughout November and the beginning of December will be the best thing you’ll ever do for yourself, especially if you have a full-time job and/or kids. This will give you a sense of control, time saved for your beloved ones and less panic attacks, in general.
I’m sure you already do 90% of your stuff on-line and your life depends on the Internet so you don’t need me to tell you this, but having the luxury of sitting on your couch and doing some holiday shopping for your folks is the best time-saver ever. However, stir clear from buying everything you see on-line, in bulk, but rather stick to your plan (you know, the one that I talked about before). On-line surfing can, many times, give you better ideas on what else you can buy for those on your list, and you can really benefit from amazing deals from stores, that usually do not require the additional buck they would for in-store items. Also, the convenience of having your purchases delivered directly to your door is one huge satisfying advantage which makes you believe that Elves really do exist and that they work in delivery services.
Exploring your options can pay off quite well, yet, if you feel like bringing a personal touch in the gifts for your beloved ones, do stick to the physical shopping (which is also my go-to option when I shop for my family).
Now, you’ve got a clear vision on what you need to do this holiday season, so from the bottom of my heart, I wish you Happy Shopping and enjoy yourself while you’re at it! Also, don’t forget to treat yourself to some guilty pleasure making all this effort, because – why not!