Does Last-Minute Christmas Shopping Pay?

When Should Someone Shop for This?

Brightly colored Christmas gift in gift bag with tissue paper.
Brightly colored Christmas gift in gift bag with tissue paper. | Source

Types of Shopping Styles

Some people are über-organized “Felix Unger” types, with lists and budgets and timelines for buying Christmas gifts starting in a ridiculous month such as July. Others don’t get into the spirit of Christmas gift shopping until about December 20th.

Does either type save significant money?

Also, what are other costs? It’s not a black and white choice.

Money Issues for Christmas Shopping

There are several considerations regarding money. Someone who buys a little over 5 or 6 months will spread out the expense bump. In other words, the total amount spent on Christmas (or Chanukah or whatever) will not be crammed into a single month. The one-week shoppers, on the other hand, will have a credit card bill amount which will appear similar to the whole hog swallowed by the python. It will be a large sum compared to their usual spending and perhaps cost these shoppers in interest charges if they do not pay it off in full. However, if the retail world is sluggish, there may be incredible discounts and bargains available in the last days before Christmas, which could make the shopping very economical. This is impossible to predict, though, and not something one can count on.

Gift Idealness Issues

Obviously, we want to give someone a present which he or she will like. We want the gift to convey the message that we value you and know you well enough to give you something which will delight you and enhance your day. When a person allots many months to shop, the pressure to find the perfect gift is less intense than when one has only 36 hours to score the great gifts. However, there is the slight chance that the early bird shopper will already have used up the budget on an ‘’okay” gift but later stumble upon the perfect one. This, then, could create a dilemma, such as questioning whether to return the satisfactory present and buy the perfect one, or whether to buy everyone an extra gift, and so on. It is not an awful problem, but it is an event requiring more decisions. Furthermore, young children may not know what they want until very close to Christmastime. The late shopper is ideally positioned to handle this. In addition, the procrastinating shopper may be rewarded by stores displaying more desirable trendy or tekkie, gadgety gift items in the last half of December.

Add In the Wrapping Timeline

Generally, Christmas gifts are presented in a gift bag with tissue paper or hidden behind paper, ribbon, and bows. This affords the recipient with the chance to make some guesses about the gift based on the package size and weight. It is part of the fun – wondering what the present is, based on those clues. Some people wrap gifts as they are purchased and keep a master list of what is inside each package. Others wrap and do not make a list, which usually leads to confusion and over-buying to make sure that everyone on the gift list has something. Then there are those who choose a time in the last 2 weeks of December to wrap gifts while listening to Christmas music and think about the great relationships they have with all the gift recipients, and imagining how each will squeal with surprise and pleasure at the presents. Obviously, the last-minute shopper cannot do this. The last minute shopper often needs to wrap a huge pile of gifts on December 24th.

If you are a person who survives on 5 or fewer hours of sleep each night, the prospect of wrapping 30 newly-purchased gifts overnight is not a big deal. However, if you either need more sleep, or work 2 jobs, or have cookies to bake and a feast to prepare overnight, you may not have the time to do wrapping. The wrapping squeeze is a stressful “time cost” that the last minute shopper must pay. People tend to forget that part of the entire shopping choice.

The Ideal Christmas Shopping Strategy

Sorry to disappoint, but there is no ONE winning plan. After reading the pros and cons and hidden costs, you probably have decided which sort of timing fits your style and needs best. It likely is a hybrid of the two extremes. The combination which appeals to you is YOUR ideal strategy.

Please share what you do

When do you start Christmas shopping?

  • Any time, all the time
  • After Labor Day
  • On Black Friday
  • Around December 18th
  • On December 24
See results without voting

Photo and text copyright 2012 Maren E. Morgan.

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