How to Christmas Shop Like a Pro

If you haven’t already started Christmas shopping, then you’re behind the game.  Seriously.  I start shopping almost immediately after Christmas is over for the next year.  Now we’re at the point that Christmas is only 2 months away! Do I have you worried? Don’t be! If you’ve been a slacker on the Christmas shopping, here’s some tips to make sure that you not only get your shopping done, but that you don’t make your bank account/credit cards cry during the process.

Photo Credit: Dakota Maynard Photography, 2013.

Step 1:  Make a list.
This step should go without saying, but you need to make a list of everyone who made your nice list this year. That way, you know how many people you need to buy for and you hopefully don’t leave anyone off the list.

Step 2: Set a budget.
While this is Step 2 on the list, it is the most important step!   Determining a Christmas budget is a 2-step process in and of itself.  First, determine the total amount of money you want to spend.  You can make this a range or a hard number, but be serious in making the determination so that you can and will stick to it!   If you’re using the Simple Budget method, then it should be fairly easy to see how much money you will have to put towards Christmas gifts each paycheck. Then, allocate your budget amongst everyone on your list by setting price-points for how much you want to spend for each of them.  Not only does this save you from overspending, but it makes it much easier to narrow down online shopping when you can search by category and price!

Step 3: Start early and shop sales.
We’ve already established that you’re behind in the game if you haven’t already started Christmas shopping, but it’s still better to start now than in late November/early December.  Like I said, I purchase gifts year-round, and stick them in a gift closet until needed.  This allows me to purchase items on sale as I find them instead of having to pay a premium on them later in the year.  I can’t tell you how often I’ve found the perfect gift for someone 9 months in advance.  Also, this keeps you from missing out on or having to pay a premium for a gift you wanted to purchase if it becomes a hot item closer to Christmas.

Be sure to sign up on stores’ mailing list to get coupons and notices of sales.  You can also browse, which is a favorite deal-finding website of my husbands!

And let’s not forget comparison shopping!  By starting in advance, you have time to compare the best prices and wait to have it shipped or picked it up from the cheapest place!  Many stores have also started price matching items–check your local stores policies.  Some have become quite generous!

Step 4: Know when to buy–whether or not to wait til Black Friday.
There are no words adequate to describe my love for Black Friday.  That said, you don’t have to wait til Black Friday to shop for everything (refer back to Step 3).  What should you wait for Black Friday to purchase?  Kids toys, electronics, small kitchen appliances, movies, and jewelry are all things that come to mind.  That said, over the past several years, stores have really been outdoing themselves in bringing out the deals earlier and earlier.  You can always google a store’s Black Friday ad from last year to get a sense of what items they put on sale for Black Friday and how their price-dropping generally works. No, stores don’t always have the same exact item on sale, but they tend to put the same types of items on sale. I’ll have a Black Friday Survival Guide closer to the day.

Step 5: Use Ebates!
If this is the 1st you’re hearing about Ebates, you can get up-to-speed on it with my post here.  I love Ebates, and I tend to really rack up the cash back around this time of year!  Even better, I can apply my latest Big Fat Check rebate to my Christmas shopping and really save some extra money! Ebates is a great way to stretch the budget a little farther too!  If you haven’t joined yet and would like to, click here.

If you were panicking a little over Christmas, I hope this post helps!  I know so many people put shopping off until the last minute, but by Christmas shopping like a pro, you can take that time to focus on the things that matter most:)

Photo Credit: Dakota Maynard Photography, 2013

What’s your plan of attack for Christmas shopping this year?