When To Go Christmas Shopping

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It's beginning to look a lot like...
It’s beginning to look a lot like…

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:


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!

photo credit: voxtheory via photopin cc

Jacob Wade

Jacob Wade

Jacob Wade has been a nationally-recognized personal finance expert for the past decade. He has written professionally for The Balance, The Spruce, LendingTree, Investing Answers, and other widely-followed sites. 
He’s also been a featured expert on CBS News, MSN Money, Forbes, Nasdaq, Yahoo! Finance, Go Banking Rates, and AOL Finance.

In 2018, Jacob quit his job and his family decided to sell everything (including their home) to take off on an adventure. They traveled the country in an RV for nearly 3 years, visiting over 38 states, 20+ national parks and eventually settling in the sunshine state!

34 thoughts on “When To Go Christmas Shopping”

  1. I shop all year long too…usually just stocking stuffers for the kids. My local Kroger puts toys on super clearance throughout the year. I often wonder why they bother selling them! Anyway, they will sell an out-of-season Barbie for like $2. My kids don’t know which ones are in season so they don’t care.

    • A small list is nice, because you can grab a few things here and there for the next few months. We start in January because our list is HUGE (and ever growing!)

  2. We start shopping in November or December but don’t buy until very close to Christmas. We ship all of our gifts because we always travel over Christmas, and I don’t want to start cluttering up our parents’ houses any earlier than December.

  3. Krista and I work on online surveys throughout the year so that we don’t have to save anything for Christmas. It is awesome when this time of year rolls around and we can buy people what they want and have zero stress about buying it. We’ve started our shopping and we think its never too early to start.

  4. We honestly don’t have that many gifts to buy, but I certainly try to buy on sale if I see something appropriate. Most of my family gets gift cards because it’s just easier and easier to mail. I at least try to get them when they are giving 4x gas points. This year, I might try to use the Ink Bold card at an office store to get bonus points.

  5. I certainly like the idea of shopping all-year round. Maybe my worry would be how to hold onto the gifts until christmas time rolls around 🙂
    Can’t argue with the logic and math though, some items or most items will be far cheaper off-season and that spreading your purchases and looking out for sales etc, one is bound to save significantly.
    And still, I haven’t started my Christmas shopping yet!

  6. We don’t celebrate Christmas anymore (it’s more of a regular day for us), so there’s no presents to be bought and not too many decorations. We do cook something extra, but that’s it.

    Anyway, having lists, a budget and starting purchasing stuff earlier is a great idea. You can really plan well, get savings and not stress too much.

  7. I’m the worst at stuff like this. We do have a “gifts” savings account like you, but I never ever buy gifts early, no matter how well-intentioned I am. It’s like my kryptonite.

  8. I wish I could think ahead like this and save all year long. I think I am resistant because I have tired of accumulating material goods. I would much rather go on a trip somewhere and have an “experience” instead of giving/receiving lots of “stuff” I probably won’t use.

    • Make it a destination Christmas. If you can get the whole family to save, you could fly out to Hawaii instead 🙂

      Or just use credit card reward bonuses like I do 🙂

  9. We usually start in the second half of the year but we do start earlier than December. We already have kiddo done since to a wicked sale a la toys r us. We’re paid biweekly so the Christmas budget comes out of our ”extra” pays.

    PS- eyes peeled is a gross saying!


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