I know, I know, too soon, right? But bear with me here. I have already been seeing the usual suspects around town. Christmas lights in the “seasonal” section of the grocery stores. Christmas lights on my friggin’ neighbor’s porch. CHRSTIMAS LIGHTS ON THE INTERNET! Whether we like it or not, seasonal creep is happening everywhere we look, AND YOU CAN’T STOP IT. So might as well talk about the inevitable; Christmas Shopping.
Christmas is the single most profitable event in human history. Especially in the land of cash money, America. According to the National Retail Federation, holiday sales account for about 20% of all retail sales for the year. That’s 10% of the days accounting for 20% of the sales! And in 2011, over $560 Billion dollars were spent on holiday shopping. NUTS! And since most of this shopping is “extra”, as in, not a necessity, it’s crazy to think about those numbers. We’re all going to do our fair share of Christmas shopping, so the question is, “when is the best time to shop for Christmas?”
When To Go Christmas Shopping
Michelle and I have a sweet Christmas savings bucket that we sock away $50 a month into for our holiday shopping. I am a believer in having the cash handy when events like Christmas and birthdays come along, instead of freaking out every time they show up like you weren’t expecting it to happen this year. So I have automated my savings to put money away for this holiday, so I never have to even THINK about it, it’s just there. Of course, I use my rewards credit cards to make the purchases, and pay them off right away to reap the benefits. CHA CHING!
But people are always wondering when the best time shop is. So I’m going to make it really simple and just tell everyone the biggest secret of holiday shopping. The best time to shop for Christmas is:
ALL. YEAR. LONG.
Boom! Did that blow your mind? Yeah, mine either….but seriously, do not wait for the “perfect time” to get your Christmas gifts, because the perfect time is ALWAYS. Contrary to what advertising tells you, Christmas shopping deals do happen year round. In fact, THERE ARE ALWAYS DEALS ON EVERYTHING YEAR ROUND, you just have to look for them. Don’t wait for the saddest day of the year to shop, start in January, and you can have all your Christmas shopping finished by the time the holidays roll around.
Here’s How We Do It
We’ve got $50 a month, starting in January to start purchasing Christmas gifts for our fam. We put together a list (it’s long, like 20+ people, AHHHH!!!) of people and assign them a dollar amount. The total dollars add up to $600 for the year, which is $50 x 12 months. Now that we have a budget for each person, we keep mental notes from previous year Christmas lists and stuff they’ve mentioned, and always keep a look out for deals. Since we’re always hanging out in the clearance section (BALLERS!), if we spot something that reminds us of someone, we take a look to see if it falls within our budget, and if we’ve got the money already socked away.
I still keep track of our savings buckets with my excel spreadsheet, even though we’ve moved our monthly budgeting over to Mint.com. It’s on dropbox, so we can easily pull it up and check the balance of the Christmas budget at any time. We also keep our list of names and dollar amounts in that same spreadsheet, so it’s easy to see who we shopped for and how much we have for each person on our phones. We find great items on clearance, or out of season, or just on MAJOR SALE all the time, even when we’re not particularly looking for them.
This year, we’ve slacked off a bit, but probably have almost half of our list shopped for, and the money is almost all there for the rest. We’ve come in WAY under budget so far, because the deals have been AWESOME, and so have the gifts. We have gotten some great, very personalized gifts, and have probably averaged 70-80% off retail price just by having the money ready and keeping our eyes peeled (<- what does this expression even mean??? Gross!).
Comments: How about you? Have you been shopping for Christmas already? Do you have a Christmas budget? DO YOU KNOW THAT CHRISTMAS IS LESS THAN 3 MONTHS AWAY! Since you all went through my Budgeting Basics, I know you’ve already got the money set aside, so now it’s time to get out there and shop before the madness sets in!