Buying gifts can be fun but stressful. You know, those times you’ve had to search for something at the last-minute and ended up paying more than you can afford. Or those times when you’ve had to carve all your holiday spending out of one month’s pay check.
We’re all about putting the fun back into gift giving. So, here are 8 ways that being a year-round shopper can help you buy more gifts for less.
My holiday shopping used to begin around Dec. 1, but it never worked out well. I’d be so busy with other holiday preparations, I wouldn’t have time to look for the best gift for the person and would usually spend more than I had planned.
One January, I vowed to start early, and I haven’t looked back. By becoming a year-round gift shopper, I catch sales, find better gifts and am a lot let stressed.
Keep a Gift List
Creating a gift shopping list for your whole year keeps you organized. I made mine in an Outlook spreadsheet so it’s accessible from my computer as well as on my phone. If you prefer to use an app, here are nine that PC Magazine recommends, but check the reviews before you install. Giftster was one of the best, but only had a 3.8 rating when we posted this. My old-school method is free, easy and has no ads or tracking.
My spreadsheet includes the names of every person I need to buy a gift for throughout the year as well as the date it’s needed. This includes everyone I’ll be getting Christmas gifts for, birthdays and any celebrations that I know will be coming up. For example, my parents are celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary this year. That one will get more than a card.
When I’ve bought the gift, I record what it was so I don’t buy them the same thing again in the future.
There are also columns for budgeted price and actual price, which automatically total at the bottom. When I buy a gift, I record the price and can see how I’m doing with my overall budget. If my friend’s perfect birthday gift comes in a little lower than planned, I know I can spend a little more on my husband’s Christmas gift.
The best part is, because the list is digital, I can recycle it. At the start of the next year, I just copy the sheet. If I have to add a name, that’s easy too. And if for some reason I don’t need to buy a gift for someone that year, I move their row to the bottom.
Plan Your Gifts
Gift lists make planning really easy. Once I’ve got the names of all the people I’m buying gifts for, I brainstorm ideas. What do they like? What did I buy them last year? Do they have a collection I can add on to? I also jot down my budgeted amount.
Having these ideas and budget planned out means you can keep an eye out for gifts throughout the year. Not only will it be easier to find the right gifts, you can also take advantage of sales.
Shop By Season
Christmas shopping in January might sound strange. After all, the gift-giving season just ended. But because it just ended, stores are getting rid of their extra stock at a lower cost. They’re also starting to sell off their winter stock to make room for spring product. If you plan ahead, you can make post-season shopping your friend.
Look at your list of gifts. Are there items that are particularly seasonal? For example, do you have a friend who loves dragons or spooky candles? Shop for them during post-Halloween sales. Does someone you love love the beach? Shop for them during post-summer sales.
Get the most out of post-seasonal shopping with a little planning.
Take Advantage of Sales
This might seem like a nobrainer. Of course you can save money shopping sales, right? But when we say take advantage of sales, we mean be strategic. Black Friday offers lots of deals, but they’re often designed to get you in the door so you’ll spend more. Instead of deciding on gifts by what you see on sale, check out the sale ads beforehand and see if there’s anything that fits your list. If it doesn’t, don’t worry about going to the sale. If there’s one thing we know for sure, another sale will be coming soon.
Black Friday isn’t the only sale in town. Personally, we favor spending Thanksgiving with family over shopping. So don’t wait for Black Friday to get the best deal. Look for sales throughout the year. We’ll also let you know about deals when we see them.
Prices change all the time. Sometimes even at different times of the day. So if you monitor prices, you can get good savings. This is where apps can be really handy.
I love Honey for price monitoring. It connects up to my Firefox browser and automatically lets me know if I’m getting the best price when I’m shopping. Plus I can ask the app to monitor prices on items on my list. And even if I have the best price, Honey will give me points toward rewards. Win win.
Lifehacker also has a list of five price tracking apps, including Honey. Got an app you like to use? Let us know in the comments.
With Gift Registeries, Buy Early
For baby showers and weddings, you don’t need to come up with your own ideas for gifts. But don’t put off looking at the registry until close to the event. The earlier you check the list, the more choice you’ll have. And the more choice you have, the more likely you’ll be able to buy a gift that’s meaningful for you as well as easy on your budget.
Years ago, I procrastinated getting a gift for a friend’s wedding and paid the price. By the time I looked at their registry, the choices were slim, and most were vastly out of my budget. When I was invited to a friend’s recent baby shower, I didn’t wait. She had registered on Amazon and I checked her list early. I was able to stick with my budget, and I bought her child a collection of books that were meaningful to both of us.
Consider Gift Cards
Generally, I prefer to put some personal thought into the gifts that I buy, but sometimes gift cards are the right gift. They can also be useful for buying gifts for others.
You can often find gift card deals that give you more than you pay for. For example, shops might offer a free gift card with a purchase. You can give the gift card to someone on your list who needs it, or use it to buy gifts for others on your list. Slickdeals packages gift cards, so you could buy, say, a gift card for Kohls and Pottery Barn for friends and get a gift card for Walgreens for you for free.
Caution, though. Look at the deals carefully and make sure you only buy ones that give you added value for you or the people on your gift list.
BONUS: Planning Equals a Happy Budget
As well as all the benefits already listed, being a year-round gift shopper has a happy bonus: You can spread out your spending.
Buying gifts right before you need them means the bulk of your spending will all be around the holidays. That can be hard on your pay check.
But when you shop throughout the year, you not only save with sales, you spend less in any single month. That’s a win win for you and your wallet.
Are you a year-round gift shopper? Got any other tips? Share below…