Hanukkah

Top 5 Tips for Early Holiday Shopping

by Jamie Sanford on September 15, 2015

In case you didn’t know, you should already be thinking about shopping for holiday gifts.

A while back, I realized that I was absolutely killing myself with stress around the holidays, trying to find gifts at the last minute, and resorting to gift cards way too often. I started shopping early and I haven’t looked back since. To help you get started, use this list of what to do before you start!

1. Make a budget!

I wrote about my holiday gift tracker spreadsheet in 2011, and I have not changed it since. It’s so easy to use (available to download in the post), and really keeps me on track, especially when buying multiple gifts for a single person.

[youtube 3zU14cCRnOM]

2. Start noticing little things about your friends and family.

Your friends and family probably drop hints about their likes and interests all the time. Make notes in your phone or datebook when you pick up on this, it will make for a starting point to finding the perfect gift.

Warning though – something only mentioned once might not be the best thing. Try and identify things mentioned multiple times. I have been on the receiving end of a very confused look for what I thought was so great because he had no idea that he had expressed a passing interest in this one thing this one time.

3. Maximize opportunities for savings/more gift buying!

If you haven’t already, join flash sale sites and start trolling for gifts. This is helpful for your budget and also is a good way to be exposed to lots of options without leaving the house. You will have to work hard to not start shopping for yourself though, believe me. Look to the right column on this page for links to invitations to all of my preferred flash sale websites. Black Friday may also be another opportunity for something special – last year, I purchased amazing Lorac palettes online from Ulta, for $11 each! I will have a Black Friday shopping guide up on the site closer to the date.

4. Don’t forget about host/hostess gifts!

You will inevitably have a few events to attend where a gift for your host or hostess will be appropriate. Shopping early for non-perishables is an easy way to avoid the stress of having to stop and find something on the way to the event (and don’t try and tell me you haven’t done that before). Now is the time to shop for giftworthy bottles of wine or champagne, which you can generally get a discount on when buying in bulk. You can also check out a lovely selection of gift baskets on Amazon, which provide a lot of options for contents and price. Buy a few of these with some gift bows (like these ones that have fiber optics!), and stick one on before you leave.

5. Enjoy the process. Have fun!

Unfortunately, I see more often than not that people see their holiday shopping as a chore, and not as the joyous experience it is meant to be. The holiday season is meant to be fun, and a time to get together with your friends and family, and drink egg nog and have a wonderful time. Gifts are traditional, and they should also provide a joyful experience for all involved. I promise you, starting your shopping now will definitely make the process more enjoyable. No one ever likes being rushed, and you KNOW you will be holiday shopping each year, so take the time to think about it early, save yourself the drama, and all will be delighted.

If you have early holiday shopping tips, please leave them in the comments!

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5 Tips For Jumpstarting Holiday Gift Shopping

by Jamie Sanford on September 9, 2013

Thanks to Alexandra Franzen for the prompt.

I officially started my holiday shopping last week. Yes, I have 4 gifts purchased already.

A few years ago, I realized that I was absolutely killing myself with stress around the holidays, trying to find gifts at the last minute, resorting to gift cards way too often. I started shopping early and I haven’t looked back since. To help you get started, use this list of what to do before you start!

1. Make a budget!

I wrote about my holiday gift tracker spreadsheet in 2011, and I have not changed it since. It’s so easy to use (available to download in the post), and really keeps me on track, especially when buying multiple gifts for a single person.

[youtube 3zU14cCRnOM]

2. Start noticing the little things about your friends and family.

Your friends and family probably drop hints about their likes and interests all the time. Make notes in your phone or datebook when you pick up on this, it will make for a starting point to finding the perfect gift.

3. Maximize opportunities for savings.

If you haven’t already, join flash sale sites and start trolling for gifts. No shame in saving some money! You will have to work hard to not start shopping for yourself though, believe me. Look to the right column on this page for links to invitations to all of my preferred flash sale websites. Black Friday may also be another opportunity for something special – last year, I purchased amazing Lorac palettes online from Ulta, for $11 each! I will have a Black Friday shopping guide up on the site closer to the date.

4. Don’t forget about host/hostess gifts!

You will inevitably have a few events to attend where a gift for your host or hostess will be appropriate. Shopping early for non-perishables is an easy way to avoid the stress of having to stop and find something on the way to the event (and don’t try and tell me you haven’t done that before). Now is the time to shop for giftworthy bottles of wine or champagne, which you can generally get a discount on when buying in bulk. You can also check out a lovely selection of gift baskets on Amazon, which provide a lot of options for contents and price. Buy a few of these with some gift bows (like these ones that have fiber optics!), and stick one on before you leave.

5. Enjoy the process. Have fun!

Unfortunately, I see more often than not that people see their holiday shopping as a chore, and not as the joyous experience it is meant to be. The holiday season is meant to be lovely and fun, and a time to get together with your friends and family, and drink egg nog and have a wonderful time. Gifts are traditional, and they should also provide a joyful experience for all involved. I promise you, starting your shopping now will definitely make the process more enjoyable. No one ever likes being rushed, and you KNOW you will be holiday shopping each year, so take the time to think about it early, save yourself the drama, and all will be delighted.

If you have early holiday shopping tips, please leave them in the comments!

{ Comments on this entry are closed }

Thanks for coming by to visit JamieSanford.com. If you enjoyed reading this post, please follow @JamieSanford on Twitter, subscribe to the RSS Feed or subscribe via email so you'll always be updated of my latest posts! Just enter your email address below and click the Subscribe button.

Track Your Holiday Gift Spending

by Jamie Sanford on November 10, 2011

Let’s get into some holiday preparation ideas for the holidays!  I am going to revisit some of my gift-giving tips soon, but in the meantime, I wanted to share the spreadsheet that I use for tracking all of my gift purchases.  If you are like me and try to buy holiday gifts all year, the tracker is the best way to remind yourself that you already bought a gift for Cousin Sally, back in February.

So, here we go.

So, it’s a spreadsheet, it isn’t rocket science.  However, as simple as it looks, it took me a while to get all of the columns and formulas that I wanted, so here it is.  Let’s break it down.

The first columns are the very basics.  I think that filling this in early in the calendar year will create a little mental reminder that you’ve committed yourself to shop for gifts all year and not just at the last minute.

In addition, defining an absolute budget will help you stick it it.  One of the biggest problems with early shopping is that there is a possibility that you will find something else for someone after you’ve spent your budget.  If you can return something you have already bought, then fine.  If you can’t, then you need to remember the item and go back for it in the next calendar year.

There are 3 columns for gifts to purchase for each person(s).  In this area, you describe the gift, list the price, and note whether or not it has been purchased.  As you can see here, the cells are blue.  Once I have a gift that is “done” (i.e. in my possession), I go ahead and make it another color so I can gloss over it.  When I have completely finished with obtaining gifts for a person(s) on the list, the whole row gets a single color.

And of course, the budget tracking portion of the spreadsheet.  The columns will automatically add up in the “total spent” column, and “remaining in budget” will show you what you have left, if any.  It will show a number in parentheses if you have a negative remainder!

I would love to hear if anyone ends up using my little creation to track their holiday gifting and spending, but mostly, it is designed to use all year, for birthdays, anniversaries, baby gifts, Hanukkah and whatever other gift-giving happenings are in your life.

Track your holiday gift spending here with the spreadsheet in Google Docs.

Good luck!

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Shopping for Holiday Gifts? 5 Tips To Get Moving!

by Jamie Sanford on August 13, 2010

I asked a group of my colleagues the other night if they had started their holiday shopping and they were shocked that I had suggested it. I had a similar encounter on Twitter where I talked about having started my holiday shopping already and getting messages back saying things such as “WHAT?”  I knew immediately that I needed to offer my tips on fulfilling your holiday shopping list to my readers.

The Tree at Rockefeller Center.

This famous tree will be up in no time!

Why is everyone so surprised by this? There’s no reason why holiday gifts need to be purchased around the holidays, unless you’re shopping for someone who must have the absolute latest gadget—some tech toy purchased in July may conceivably be outdated by December, sure. But most other gifts have staying power. In addition, I don’t know anyone who actually enjoys going to a store after Thanksgiving.

So, I’ve purchased 3 or 4 holiday gifts so far, smallish things but I’m working through my list. It’s not as if the major holidays won’t come around this year, so why not start gift shopping now?

Here are my top 5 tips for getting into early holiday gift shopping. (Note that these ideas can also apply to your year-round gift shopping, birthdays, anniversaries, etc.)

1.  Keep notes! Your friends and family probably drop subtle and not-so-subtle hints all the time about things they like and are interested in. If you think someone is consistently hard to shop for, remember this tip and it will be much easier in the future. My husband saves emails that I send him about things I like and revisits them later when it is gift time.

2.  Expose yourself to opportunities for saving money! I have been having a ball checking out the daily sales from the following websites. The first 5 are mostly focused on product purchases, but Groupon has daily deals on things to do or see in your area – and most of the experiences you can buy can be redeemed within long period of time, completely making this viable for holiday gift shopping.

Ideeli
Gilt Groupe
RueLaLa
Beyond The Rack
Swirl by Daily Candy
Groupon

Leave a comment below if there are other sites in this category that readers should check out.

3.  Set a budget. This process is much faster in general if you have a hard number in mind as a budget for each gift you are going to give. It makes snap decisions very easy, especially when using the deal-a-day websites. If it is above your budget, let it go. If it is below your budget, great – this can work especially well if you get a really hot deal on something. Keep in mind that smart shopping means that a small budget can go a long way!

4.  Go “shopping” in a real store, or at the mall. As much as I love the Internet, you can’t see everything online. There is a lot to be said for window-shopping, and it can really help to jog your memory—passing a display of perfume can remind you that your mother-in-law mentioned liking/wanting it. I highly recommend doing this memory-sparking shopping early in the week, at night. This is the time I find the mall to be the quietest. Feel free to take notes (or photos with your cell phone if you prefer), and order the items online when you get home. You might be able to find a much better price online, but the experience will help you nonetheless.

5.  Have fun! I know I’m not the only one who really gets a kick out of giving gifts that really makes the other person happy. I’ve been told that I’m great at finding holiday gifts (hence this blog), but for the most part, anyone can do it if you put some thought into it.  It really does bring a great feeling and it is worth the effort—there really is no need to default to buying holiday gift cards!

Here’s a great 30-second clip from 30 Rock, where Jack discusses the beauty of gift-giving. It pretty much sums it all up. The clip is gone now and I can’t find it anywhere. The best quote from Jack Donaghy is this:

“Gift giving is the purest expression of friendship. I’m going to think about what I know and like about you and that will lead me to the perfect gift, and you do the same.”

Please post your early shopping tips in the comments!

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Thanks for coming by to visit JamieSanford.com. If you enjoyed reading this post, please follow @JamieSanford on Twitter, subscribe to the RSS Feed or subscribe via email so you'll always be updated of my latest posts! Just enter your email address below and click the Subscribe button.