If you have already seen Christmas gifts in the shops then you will be well aware that the festive season is – almost unbelievably – about to come round again. Who knows, you might even have seen some stray Christmas decorations and lights up somewhere or heard the festive sounds of Slade and Wham by now.
This is an expensive time of year no matter how you go about things. However, by being smart about the gifts you buy you can make sure that you don’t wildly overspend on them.
Morning! Today I have a guest post from Robert from Money Bulldog who talks about how to shop smart for Christmas. You can follow him and Adam on Twitter @MoneyBulldogUK
Please contact me if you would like to guest post on RFI.
Give Yourself Time
The simplest way to spend less on Christmas gifts is by choosing them in plenty of time. If you find yourself running out to the shops on the morning of the 24th of December then there is a very good chance that you will end up paying over the odds. In addition to this, you will probably buy gifts which aren’t all that great either. By starting early you can choose the most suitable presents and also make the most of your budget. Some people take this to the extreme of doing their Christmas shopping in the January sales but even if you aren’t quite so organised you can still start in September or October and stagger your purchases. Buying in plenty of time means that you can also look for bargains on internet sites without having to worry about whether they will arrive in time for the big day. You might not even really notice the cost of 2 or 3 gifts each month, while buying 10 or more from your December pay is far more likely to cause a big hole in your monthly budget.
Go to a Christmas Market
Christmas markets have long been popular in cities across continental Europe and there are fantastic ones held in places like Vienna, Berlin, Nuremburg and Copenhagen. Travelling to one of these places in the run up to Christmas might be an additional expense but would it be worth it? As well as getting a lovely break from the routine you can also choose from a wide selection of different kinds of gifts. In fact, going anywhere different gives you the chance to pick from gift items which you might not find at home. If you don’t fancy the expense of going to a Christmas market abroad then you will find some held in the UK. Belfast, Birmingham, Glasgow, Exeter, Newcastle and Wrexham are just a few of the cities where you will usually find festive markets in the run up to Christmas. These are often fantastic places to enjoy an evening of strolling around the stalls trying some festive food and where you might find some interesting gifts too.
A great value way of providing lovely gifts for all your friends and family is by making them. A quick look online for Christmas craft ideas will give you plenty of inspiration for doing this. These can be really special presents, as you will have put a lot of time and effort into them, which is something which everyone appreciates. Lovely decorated candles, personalized photo frames and homemade soap sets are among the most popular ideas you will find. However, if you have a lot of imagination and are good at making things then the sky is the limit. A nice twist on the idea of making your Christmas gifts is that of using recycled goods to do it. This is a great way of helping the planet as well of giving interesting, good value gifts to your loved ones.
How and when do you prepare for Christmas?
This post was featured on the Festival of Frugality, thank you!
I just started thinking about Halloween. I’m not ready to start thinking about Christmas. But I actually did buy one gift that I’ve tucked away. I usually do most of my shopping on Black Friday or Cyber Monday.
We still don’t have a child (she’s not yet born till February), so we’ll keep it low profile as we do each year. We’re not too much into decorations and spending, so for us Christmas is the time we re-asses our finances and save some more. Sure, things will change next year 😀
Excellent guide, will come in very handy in 1-2 years
Oh good luck to your first baby! My daughter was born on February too. 🙂
FI Pilgrim says
I agree with this for most gifts, but sometimes it’s tough to ‘give yourself time’ with young kids. Last year we bought their “big” gifts in the summertime because we found great deals on both of them, but when Christmas finally rolled around they didn’t remember what they had wished for 6 months ago. Awkward.
haha 6 months is like a decade for adults!
Jane Savers @ Solving The Money Puzzle says
I am battling debt and have let my 2 post secondary student sons know that there will not be very many gifts this year. My sons are poor students and I have always encouraged them to keep their gifts budget to under $10 per person.
I am almost done shopping. I started in March when I bought one son a good quality snowbrush set for his car. I also buy each boy a tool for their tool box. I started when they were very young and they will have a full set of tools when they finish school and move to their own homes.
I love that idea of turning them into handy self sufficient adults, great idea!
DC @ Young Adult Money says
Well I always tell myself I will plan ahead, but it never seems to happen. Over the past 5+ years I’m usually buying my gifts within the last week or two of Christmas. It seems to have worked alright in the past, but it would be nice to get it done early and not worry about it.
Laurie @thefrugalfarmer says
Great post, Robert. We have been practicing these tips for a couple of years now, and have virtually no stress now when it comes to Christmas shopping. What a relief, both on our emotions, and on our pocketbook. 🙂
Matt Becker says
Being totally honest, I usually handle Christmas at pretty much the last minute. Not the best strategy I know, but it’s just something I’ve never been good at handling earlier. It’s definitely worth trying to start earlier though to reduce both stress and cost.
Skint in the City says
I read the other day that there are 12 Saturdays left till Xmas – this year I’m determined to start early! Not just because I want to avoid panic buys, but also to bag the cheapest postage deals. A lot of my family live overseas and last year I spent way too much on rush-postage having left it too late. Determined to be posting off presents at the end of Nov this year.
Have you tried local sites? I use the French Amazon to post to my family in France and it is free most of the time, rather than have stuff shipped from wherever I am.
John S @ Frugal Rules says
Good post Robert! We plan ahead and buy throughout the year so we can get the best deals and not deal with the craziness of those waiting til the last minute. We’re usually done by early November and will finish it up with a little shopping on Amazon the morning after Thanksgiving.
Stefanie @ The Broke and Beautiful Life says
I’ve been trying to be more DIY/ craft oriented in my holiday giving but I never leave enough time. I think pre-planning way in advance is even more important if you’re going to make something for everyone than if you’re going to buy something.
Anne @ Unique Gifter says
My lil bro and his wife are going to be making a bunch of their gifts this year and gave us a few months notice, in case we wanted to request anything!
I’m so not thinking Christmas yet, but we are on the lookout for a deal on a new or almost new bike for our 6 year old. We’ll jump if we find it.
Luckily we never have to give too many presents, as we always do secret Santa with W’s family. It makes things cheap!
I am crafting again this year. I have to sat that when I buy gifts in advance it always backfires. Sometimes I hid gifts and then forgot about them until way after xmas, or i bought something and forgot who it was for, or i just keep seeing so many good deals i would by too much! The best thing for me is to wait until a couple weeks before to buy what i have to and then craft the rest!
KK @ Student Debt Survivor says
Christmas markets sound like a lot of fun. We have a Christmas craft fair each year in town which is pretty neat. I’ve gotten some fun handmade gifts there in the past.
Man is it Christmas shopping already. I would rather receive baked goods than impersonal store items.
Handmade gifts are definitely a great way to go. Also your loved ones will appreciate them much more due to the thought put in.
Mark Ross says
I like to combine both, buying and making gifts. I also like to give out the gifts that I receive before that I haven’t really use. 🙂
Jake @ Ca$h Funny says
This is very good advice. I think the biggest one for me is to give myself time. If I start far enough ahead and give myself time, then I am able to find the right present for the right price for everyone I’m buying for. It’s when I’m rushed that I make poor decisions and spend more than I wanted to spend.
Jon @ MoneySmartGuides says
I was at a Lowes to pick up some plants and mulch and noticed that Christmas trees and ornaments were already being stocked. It’s madness!