Why You Should Do Your Christmas Shopping Now

September 9, 2013

christmasChristmas shopping in September? Sure, it’s a little bit early, but not by that much. Some of the large retail chains are even beginning to stock their stores for the holidays, and some are even beginning to decorate. (When you are in the retail business, there can never be too much Christmas!)

It might not be a bad idea if you get into the spirit now and start doing some or even all of your shopping before the season officially launches on Black Friday. There are at least five reasons why now is the perfect time for Christmas shopping.

1. Shop without the crowds.

Right now, we’re in that cozy little lull, just after the back-to-school rush, but well ahead of the holiday season crush. That means that there is a window of opportunity to shop without being surrounded by crowds.

Not only does this help you to avoid the stress that comes with holiday shopping – like standing in long lines and fighting for parking spaces – but that calm makes it easier to save money. Since you can bounce in and out of stores, and cover several in just couple of hours, you are in a better position to hunt for bargains.

Though it may not be practical to do all of your Christmas shopping before Thanksgiving, the more that you can do now the easier it will be later.

2. You have plenty of time to take advantage of sales as they happen.

One of the biggest advantages to shopping during seasonal lulls is that retailers often offer sales in attempts to bring the shoppers in. If you wait until the holidays hit, retailers will have far less incentive to have legitimate sales, since stores will be packed with shoppers anyway.

This can be especially important if you’re looking to make any large purchases. If you are forced to buy a laptop computer for one of your kids one or two weeks before Christmas, you’ll be stuck with whatever the going rate is at that time. But if you start shopping for one now, there is an excellent chance that they will go on sale before the holidays arrive.

By beginning your shopping now, especially for big-ticket purchases, you give yourself the time that you need to find the best deals. That step alone can cut a substantial amount out of your holiday season budget.

3. More time to budget your holiday expenses.

The amount of money spent for Christmas varies from one household to another, but if you’re on a higher range for your budget it will definitely help if you can spread your gift shopping out over several months, rather than just a few weeks. This is especially true if your holiday plans include either travel or hosting large holiday gatherings, or both. In total, your holiday expenses will be substantial.

It may be possible to do the majority of your gift buying in September, October, and early November. And if you can, it will reduce the strain on your budget during the critical Thanksgiving-to-New Year’s stretch. But if you wait and try to cram your shopping in with all of your other plans, you can find yourself spending an incredible amount of money in just a few weeks – then carrying it over into the new year.

4. Minimizing the last minute crush.

When it comes to the holidays, it probably is not possible to completely avoid last-minute situations. This is especially true if you travel for holidays, and/or have a large number of people to buy gifts for. But you can minimize the 11th hour maneuvers by getting the majority of your gift buying done in advance of the holidays.

Set up a list of all the people who you need to buy gifts for, and start shopping for them now. As you buy for each one, you can cross that name off the list and move on to the next one. This will make holiday gift shopping very methodical, and very doable.

You can buy just a few gifts each week, until everyone on your list has been crossed off. I find it can also be a big advantage to shop on Monday and Tuesday evenings. The stores are practically empty on those nights, which makes shopping even easier. Each gift you buy before the holidays is one less item for the last-minute crush.

5. Enjoy a low stress holiday.

Do you ever find yourself being so stressed by the holidays that you don’t really enjoy them? That’s actually a common problem. Life is busy enough in the normal course, but when you add a collection of rapid-fire holidays, like Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s, it can move you to the breaking point. You can only get involved in so much, and then you find yourself not enjoying any of it.

A very big part of the stress issue at the holidays is of course shopping for gifts. If you can at least remove that single major component from the mix, the holiday season will be a lot less stressful. You may even enjoy the holidays for a change. With your gift buying done, think about all of the stresses that you will not have to deal with on and after Black Friday:

  • Fighting the crowds at the stores.
  • Finding close-in parking – especially in bad weather.
  • Standing in long lines.
  • Dealing with returns.
  • Finding the time to do it all.
  • Finding the money to pay for it all.
  • Making time to handle everything else that’s happening in your life (the “non-holiday” side of life).

This year, you can actually have time to watch Christmas specials, to drive around and enjoy the Christmas decorations, and to participate in all of the events that make the holiday season so special. All you need to do is get your shopping done before the holidays come around.

When do you normally begin doing your Christmas shopping? Leave a comment!


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Kevin Mercadante is professional personal finance blogger, and the owner of his own personal finance blog, OutOfYourRut.com. He has backgrounds in both accounting and the mortgage industry. He lives in Atlanta with his wife and two teenage kids and can be followed on Twitter at @OutOfYourRut.

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6 Responses to Why You Should Do Your Christmas Shopping Now

  • Rebecca @ Stapler Confessions

    I started in July, at the Target toy clearance sale. At this point in the year, I only buy items at very deep discounts. It worked well last year, not only because I saved a lot of money but because I was done shopping by December and was able to focus on all the fun family and community activities in December instead of shopping.

    • Kevin Mercadante

      Hi Rebecca – You could have written this post! I don’t like to do Christmas shopping in the summer months (I live in Georgia – too hot, I can’t get into it), but I can certainly see where it would be an advantage.

  • GetRichWithMe

    My wife always buys our christmas cards in January. Always gets them for less than half price.

    • Kevin Mercadante

      Are you suggesting that we begin your Christmas shopping in January? I’m in!

      Actually, we do buy our Christmas decorations in January, when they’re all deeply discounted.

  • Alexandra @ Real Simple Finances

    I think this is great advice. My bank offers Holiday Club accounts, so in the first week of October I receive a check for my deposits plus interest (which is laughable at this point, but I digress). My goal this year is to take care of everyone’s gifts in October, and still hopefully have some left over in case there is a black Friday just-can’t-miss-it sale.