Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Why I Gift-Shop Year Round

Last week I bought my first gift for Christmas this year. Yes, Christmas. I guess you could call me an over-achiever, that's what most people do when they find out I usually have my Christmas shopping finished by Thanksgiving.

I don't think it's over-achieving, I think it's a time, money, and stress saver. Here's why.

It's two days before Christmas and you don't have your final gift yet (or any gift, but I'll give you some credit) so you dash madly off to store after store (if you don't cave and get a gift card) trying to find "the perfect gift" ... when you do finally find it, it's probably not "perfect", it probably cost more than you were hoping to pay, and you're (likely) most definitely stressed.

Wouldn't it be nicer to spend that evening relaxing at home with a nice cup of tea in front of your lovely tree with your family or friends around you? It is possible.

Buying year round allows you to keep an eye for everyone you need a gift for, for whatever the occasion (birthday, anniversary, Christmas...) I keep a list in a small spiral notebook, I'll probably start keeping a list on my phone since I just got my first smart phone (thanks, Republic Wireless) - each person gets one page where I can write down whatever I have for them (that way I don't forget and end up with lots and lots of gifts for one person -- that doesn't save money!) and I have a page for miscellaneous gifts I keep on hand. I'll get to misc. gifts in a minute.

Some people are super easy to buy for - for me that's usually my mom, sister, grandmother ... well, most of the females in my life. The men are the hard ones. All they seem to want are gift cards and tools! Tools are usually out of my price range, and I try to avoid giving gift cards as they just seem impersonal to me.

When I spot a gift that has a person's name written all over it during the year, I have 2 options: 1. Is it on a good sale right now and within my budget? If the answer is yes, I buy it. If the answer is no, I move on to the other option. 2.a. keep an eye out for sales for the item 2.b. scour the internet, particularly Amazon and Ebay, for identical or similar items and price compare. If I find one that meets my aforesaid criteria, I buy it.

Shopping year round allows me to look for sales and check the internet over. This saves me money and sanity. Also, I get to do on my time, instead of having to drop everything to rush madly about.

I find a lot of like-new and unique items for a great price at thrift stores. If it needs cleaning, I clean it. If it needs washing, I wash it - and I have time to do both of those things by not waiting until the last minute.

I'll tell you what, I sure feel real accomplished when I find something for one of my "problem buys" early in the year, especially since I know that means I'll be less stressed later.

And while I technically just bought the first gift of the year, I actually have some in my gift trunk (my designated spot to put all purchased or handmade gifts) that I bought previously that are just waiting to be given this year. That's a good feeling.

Oh, the misc. gifts? Those are gifts that are not bought with a specific person in mind, but were really good deals on items that will make good gifts. These are the gifts you look over first when you are invited to a friends birthday party, or find out that someone is in need of a particular item you already have on hand, etc.

No, you won't always have a gift on hand for everyone in every occasion, but it still helps.

A question I sometimes get asked is, "but what about gift lists? If you're buying year round you can't get someone what they really want!" I get the point, but I also think that pay attention to what they say and keep your own list of things they have communicated that they want throughout the year. You can also you can know someone well enough to find something that you know they will love, but would never have thought to put on their list. It's thoughtful, frugal, and doesn't cause any panic attacks.

Is this over-achieving? I don't think so. It just takes a little bit of planning to allow you to live generously within your means, even on a very tight budget.

What are your gift-buying tips?

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