There is this one intersection in Indianapolis that I absolutely avoid from the week of Thanksgiving until the New Year. If you’re familiar with Indy, it’s Allisonville and 465, including 82nd and 86th. I think it’s in the city bylaws that every holiday shopper must pass through this intersection at least once, either accidentally or on purpose. When I think about the holidays and the stress that can surround them, that intersection is at the very tippy top of my list. I’m convinced that if I can avoid that intersection each year I can avoid that much more stress.
Each year I’ve tried a little harder to get my holiday shopping done earlier, and each year I’ve succeeded a little bit more. Want to know my biggest struggle with getting all my shopping done early? I cannot keep a surprise to SAVE MY LIFE. If I were to buy a Christmas present for my husband in July I would spend the next 5 months trying to get him to guess what it was and convincing him he wanted it NOW! Why go five months living life without the most perfect present ever when it’s in the garage ready to be used now!?
There’s an awful lot of reasons to get holiday shopping done early, and an awful lot of ways to make it a lot easier on yourself. Let’s discuss, shall we?
Last year Addie wanted a super popular hard to find toy. I went to four stores, called at least a dozen more until I found the elusive piece of plastic that was going to make her holiday merry and bright. She also asked for a really hard to find toy, one that every other little girl must have asked for. In November I was arguing with her on the toy aisle that there was no reason to buy any toys now because Christmas wasn’t for another month.
Well guess what, two weeks later those toys were cleaned out and I never found them again.
- The first rule of Early Christmas Shopping Club is an early letter to Santa with no take backs. Once that letter is sent it is not to be modified or added to. Tell your kids Santa has a new policy, that way you don’t end up crying in the toy aisle at midnight on Christmas Eve.
- The second rule of Early Christmas Shopping Club is to shop from your couch. Look, I’m more of a shop in the store, immediate gratification type girl but I hate traffic and the closer we get to the holidays the more I hate the commercialism that surrounds the holidays. The less time I spend in crowded malls with the masses telling me to BUY BUY BUY! the better for my true holiday spirit. It’s not about the stuff, the stuff is nice, but really? Not about the stuff. Consider the amount you spend on shipping like paying for your sanity and saving gas.
- The third rule of Early Christmas Shopping Club is to check for online coupons. Don’t buy anything online without checking RetailMeNot.com first. If you use Firefox, Retail Me Not has an add on that will tell you when coupons are available on a site you’re visiting.
- The fourth rule of Early Christmas Shopping Club is to find another address to ship to. If your kids are anything like mine they’re home when UPS comes and they’re going to start getting curious when a dozen secret boxes start showing up. You can also never be sure what will be printed on the outside of the box, sometimes boxes can spoil a surprise before I ever have the chance to. I have packages sent to my husband’s work. I have another friend who has hers sent to an empty nest neighbor who totally understands.
- The fifth rule of Early Christmas Shopping Club is to find a good hiding spot. Generally the home of someone without kids is best, I use the basement at Cody’s office. If I can’t get to his office I have a spare dishwasher in the garage that works wonderfully. Make sure your hiding spot isn’t SO GOOD that you lose presents. I don’t know how many times my mom came downstairs in February with some random shirt or object in her hand saying “Well, Merry Christmas. Totally forgot about this.”
- The sixth rule of Early Christmas Shopping Club is to sign up for deal websites and quickly browse through them each morning for perfect gifts. BUT! There’s a trickier way to do it. Set up a new email account so your current one isn’t bombarded by emails each morning and so you don’t have to go to the trouble of unsubscribing once the holidays are over. A few sites worth signing up for? Fab.com (my absolute FAVORITE) LivingSocial.com (geographically based but you can buy deals in other cities) Groupon.com (again, geographically based but you can buy deals in other cities. They also have Groupon Goods that can have some really amazing deals as well, no matter where you live.) There’s dozens of others, but I’ve had the best luck with Fab and Groupon.
- The seventh rule of Early Christmas Shopping Club is to make sure you know what everyone else wants. We all keep updated wishlists on Amazon.com so no grandparent ever double buys something and everyone has a choice of how much they want to spend. It’s also nice because when someone wants something a bit more expensive, it’s easy to team up and go in on a gift together. (Nothing says you have to buy it on Amazon either. In fact Amazon lets you add things to your wishlists from other sites.)
- The eight rule of Early Christmas Shopping Club is to set a budget. Seriously. Do I even need to explain this one? Spreading out your purchases throughout the year or months leading up to Christmas will make that January bank or credit card statement hurt a lot less.
- The final rule of Early Christmas Shopping Club? Use a credit card that rewards you. If you’re going to be spending your hard earned money, you may as well be earning points while you do it. We use credit cards for holiday purchases then pay them off in full each month. That way we get all the benefits our cards offer us, without having to pay interest. Citi offers a service called Price Rewind, a service that tracks the prices of items you purchase and if Citi finds it $25 or more less somewhere else? Citi will refund you the difference.
So let’s say I bought Cody a new TV for $500 on November 24th and registered my purchase with Citi. Price Rewind will then continually check the price of that TV against what I paid and if it is found at least $25 cheaper somewhere else before December 24th? Citi will refund me the difference up to $150 ($1,000 per calendar year.) A little feature that’s super fancy around Christmastime when prices rise and fall like crazy.
With Price Rewind there’s no need to put off shopping until December in hopes that prices will fall, Citi will take care of that for you. If prices fall? You get a refund.
I’ve got about 70% of my holiday shopping done, it’s barely November and DAMN IT FEELS GOOD.
Find more of Casey’s writing on her blog moosh in indy. She’s also available on twitter, facebook, flickr and Instagram. If you can’t find her any of those places? Check the couch, she’s probably taking a nap.