Summer's finally here. The waves are crashing and the AC is blasting. With summer concert bands playing classic hits, fireworks exploding in the skies, and excited kids screeching joyously in splash parks, it's a blissful, if noisy, season. But listen carefully. There’s another sound in the distance. You might not hear it clearly yet, but it’s getting closer by the day.
By August 1, there will only be 146 days until Christmas Day. Hannukah begins even earlier, on December 22. And Kwanzaa starts December 26 and ends January 1. Before you know it, swimming and sunbathing will be replaced by shopping, baking, organizing, decorating, mailing cards … and, of course, paying.
Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, retail sales in November - December 2020 grew 8.3 percent over the same period in 2019 to $789.4 billion, according to the National Retail Federation. The numbers include online and other non-stores sales, which were up 23.9 percent at $209 billion.
Research shows that people who wait until the last minute spend $400 more on holiday shopping than those who plan ahead.
But there’s one way to cut these expenses and enjoy the holidays just as much, if not more: Planning ahead and getting into the holiday spirit, at least a little, right now.
Here are some things to consider while you're enjoying the rest of your summer:
- Buy the right gifts at the right time. There’s no law preventing holiday shopping until Black Friday. Around Labor Day, clothing that didn't sell in back-to-school sales will be on sale, as will appliances. It’s a good time to grab that juicer you've been eyeing. During that same time, both big-box and office supply stores tend to offer good deals on laptops, notebooks, and art supplies. And now is a chance to grab garden supplies or summer sporting goods, when they are still available in stores.
- Get on a roll and scroll. We all spend so much time on the Internet. While you’re checking out the screen times for “Toy Story 4’’ or keeping up with the Kardashians or Cardi B, take a peek at your favorite online stores. You might see just the right gift for your babysitter. Buy now and you can of course choose the slowest, cheapest shipping options. (A tortoise would work at this schedule). I did this recently and scored a half-price selfie stick for dogs, with a tennis ball attached to grab Rover’s attention, perfect for my friend and his Maltese. One gift off the list! And it can be mailed to me now, instead of during the busy holiday rush. Nearly 15 billion pieces of mail and 900 million packages are delivered by the U.S. Postal Service in the days between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. So have a care for your mail carrier’s burden by having your packages delivered now.
- Don’t sweat the small stuff — buy it. As back to school approaches, items such as pens and planners are readily available, often at sale prices. Dollar stores are treasure troves as well. I found a set of pencils with positive affirmations for a great stocking stuffer or Hanukkah gift.
- Lights, camera, holiday cards. That picture you took last week of you and the kids at Six Flags? That will bring a welcome touch of warm weather in a December mailbox or inbox. You can take your time selecting the wording and finding the best deals.
- Clean up nicely, with a purpose. Does it seem like all people talk about these days is how to tidy up and organize your life? Well, make it a clean sweep: Get more organized and make a dent in your holiday shopping. Poke through your attic and the back of your closets and you will likely find a photo of family members from previous generations. Get the photo cleaned up if needed, find a vintage-looking frame (at a dollar store price) and you have a gift that just might bring tears to the recipient’s eye, no gift receipt required. This kind of gift could truly be priceless.
Spend some of your summer in holiday mode and you will have more time, energy (and yes, money) to enjoy the magical moments of the upcoming holiday season.
Make sure you're prepared for your holiday next summer by opening up a CU Thrive automated savings account today. Begin with as little as $5 a month up to $500 a month and earn an amazing return on your savings for one year. Learn more here.
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