Open a drawer in Flin Grant's home office and you're bound to find a stash of purchases she's earmarked for others: jewelry for her mom, whiskey-infused coffee beans for her husband, toys for her daughter, framed family photos for the grandparents. Around October, the contents of that drawer — and a piece of paper listing who gets what — are transferred to either a closet or the garage, where they'll remain until Grant starts wrapping them the week before Christmas. Speaking to Yahoo Life in mid-October, Grant — who runs the Plant Magic Club in Los Angeles — had already completed 99% of her holiday shopping, and she's only lost her trusty list once.
"I just really don't like last-minute shopping, and [purchasing] pressure gifts that aren't just right," Grant says. "I'd rather casually shop, get things that I know are perfect when I see them and tuck them away so that I can enjoy the holiday season festivities. ... Who has time to shop in December?"
She's not alone in preferring to get her holiday shopping out of the way well before the festive season officially begins (which, per Mariah Carey, is Nov. 1). For many early holiday shoppers, the motivation is financial, as "splitting the shopping up throughout the year means we don't have sticker shock when we see how much money was spent in December," Grant points out. And with Prime Day and other sales happening throughout the year, those looking to save some money are no longer dependent on queueing outside a Walmart at 4 a.m. on Black Friday (which has largely moved online and kicks off long before Thanksgiving).
Victoria Heckstall, a mom of four who runs the Giveaways 4 Mom blog, relies on Amazon deal groups on Facebook to keep her in the loop on steep discounts throughout the year; if she sees that a gift-worthy item is on sale, she'll purchase it then and there. As with Grant, having storage space is key. Future gifts go in her spare bedroom until the first week of November, which is when Heckstall starts wrapping everything up. The wrapped presents then get stored in large bins in her garage, and are finally placed under the tree on Christmas Eve.
Many early shoppers swear by picking up certain items in the off-season: a sweater for Mom snatched up in a spring sale, a marked-down grill for Dad nabbed when the weather cools, seasonal jammies for the kids to wear next year. But it's not just about buying stuff when it's on sale. If you don't want to find yourself on Christmas Eve with a half-dozen waffle makers for your loved ones and nothing they might actually want or need, organization is crucial — as is the ability to pay attention.
"My best advice: listen," says Lisa Roche, a Reiki teacher. "All year long, people tell you what they want or need."
"I pay close attention to loved ones when they talk about things that they want or even just like or admire, and I keep an ongoing list of those things," adds Healthy Recipes blogger Vered DeLeeuw, who is typically done with her holiday shopping by the time summer ends.
"I'm a highly organized person and I can't stand waiting until the last minute," DeLeeuw says. "This is also a great way to take a lot of the holiday stress off. I can focus on what I truly enjoy — like cooking and baking — rather than worry about buying gifts."
Some shoppers use their phone's Notes app to jot down gift ideas and check off items as they go; Grant starts hers "straight after the previous Christmas," making note of any new hobbies or offhand remarks about certain products. Roche, however, has a spreadsheet that tracks what's been ordered, received and wrapped.
"Every year, I create a spreadsheet of family and friends who we give gifts.," she says. "When I pick up their gift, I fill in the spreadsheet … Each person has their row and I check things off as the year progresses."
Early shoppers insist that getting gift-buying out of the way gives them the space to actually enjoy the festive season and unburdens them from the stress of, say, circling the mall parking lot five times before squeezing past a phalanx of other fed-up shoppers (in a pandemic, no less) to buy a last-minute gift card that will inevitably feel like an afterthought. But what happens if a gift needs to be returned, and the window to do so closed months ago?
Grant says she's never been asked for a gift receipt, mostly because she's buying more meaningful items from a small business or artist. If she's worried about sizing or expiration dates (see: shoes, skincare) she'll make an exception and buy the item closer to the holidays. Family members are welcome to swap gifts amongst themselves if they like, but that "rarely" happens, she says.
Ultimately, her early-bird approach is a "win-win."
"I get it all done at a slower pace before the holiday season picks up. I'm happier, and everyone always says what good gifts I give," she says.
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