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When to Start Holiday Shopping: A Complete Timeline

Most people see the holiday season as the time to have fun, relax, and spend quality time with their family. Then there are the designated shoppers of the family. If you’re reading this, it’s safe to say that you’re either a) responsible for buying the holiday gifts in your family, or b) you’re just super passionate about gift-giving. Either way, we commend you! You are doing important work and spreading joy in the world and are also probably wondering when to actually start holiday shopping. 

As the holiday season get’s closer, you don’t have time to stress out over getting the right gifts for everyone, but every year you seem to fall into the same trap of waiting too long to start your holiday shopping. That’s why we’re here! This guide is to help you plan your holiday shopping timeline to avoid any last-minute panic. 

Here’s what you need to do, and when you need to do it.

When to Start Holiday Shopping

Two months before the holiday

The first task at hand is to make a rough list of people you plan on getting a gift for and determining a tentative item to give them. This will allow you to look out for those items at stores and grab them instantly before the holiday shopping frenzy begins. Since Black Friday sales will be going on around this time, you might as well take advantage of that and embark on a stress-free and cost-friendly gift-hunting excursion.

Also, this master list will give you an idea about the budget you will need for gift shopping and, consequently, figure out how much you need to allocate for holiday cards, postage costs, décor, and any additional expenses. Depending on the length of your recipient list, you also might want to start preparing the holiday cards by asking people for addresses or getting cards printed if you make custom cards or family photo cards. 

3-4 weeks before the holiday

Try to have at least 25%-50% of your shopping done at least a month before the holiday. This will help you keep your budget balanced and give you enough time to wrap and ship any gifts that need to go to out of town recipients.

Now is also the time to start decorating! Grab enough lights, stockings, garlands, and any other decorative item from the stores and start adorning your house with the spirit of Christmas. Buying a Christmas tree around this time will ensure that the needles remain fresh throughout the holidays. 

You also need to start planning your holiday menu. Determine an estimate of the number of people you will be feeding and the dishes you want to serve to create a proper grocery list. Preparing the grocery list ahead of time will eliminate any chances of forgetting about any essential items or running into any shortage. Also, don’t forget to mail the Christmas cards! 

2-3 weeks before the holiday

If you have relatives or friends living out of town, make sure you’ve sent their presents out already to ensure that they receive them on time. Apart from that, you need to check back on your shopping list and make sure you have everything you need in the pantry. There is no better time to do any last-minute shopping, gift-wrapping, or assembling than now. If you’re buying toys for your children, add batteries to your shopping list, or else you may face the risk of a potential meltdown on Christmas morning. 

One week before the holiday

This is the time to get things moving for real since it won’t be long before Christmas comes knocking at your door. This is also the worst time to be at the store because everyone else is also in a preholiday panic and holiday stress is at an all-time high. Focus on getting all your gifts wrapped, cards signed and sealed and have a few extra gifts in store for any last-minute gift exchanges you’re invited to or unannounced gifts that you want to reciprocate.

Last but not least, take a deep breath, plop down on your couch and relax. You did it. You pulled it off. Happy holidays!