Are you increasingly stressed? Have insufficient funds? Do you struggle to find gifts that don’t come out of a gas station, drug store, or airport kiosk? Then you might be suffering from last-minute holiday shopping. Approximately 9 out of 10 consumers have bought a holiday gift last minute according to a Shoppers Trend Report by RetailMeNot.com.

Many of those procrastinators are busy parents like yourselves with neverending daily to-do lists on top of regular parenting tasks, including preparing meals, school drop-offs, bedtime routines, and other activities. It’s no wonder some parents find themselves at the toy store on Christmas Eve wrestling another panicked parent for the last Hatchimals surprise egg.

The holiday season is kicking off earlier and earlier. As soon as those Halloween decorations come down, parent’s stress levels go up. If you haven’t started your holiday shopping yet, here are 10 things you’re missing out on by not shopping early.

1. The Twelve Months of Deals

It’s a misconception that retailers offer their best deals closer to Christmas. The fact is, you can find fantastic deals all year round with a little strategizing of what and when to buy. Black Friday, for instance, offers some of the lowest prices of the year on tons of items. It’s especially a good time to buy electronics like that 65-inch TV dad has been talking about ever since the neighbors Super Bowl party, which he says ruined regular TVs for him forever.

If you’re looking to buy winter clothes, including coats, sweaters and matching jammies, you’ll save more money shopping in January when retailers are under pressure to clear out all the leftover winter inventory before spring. The same goes for other seasonal items such as bikes. It’s best to shop right before the stock for the new season hits shelves.

2. Shopping Around on a Christmas Spree

Last minute holiday shopping can feel like a mad dash. Hurds of people rushing from store to store, scrambling to find ANY gift, nevermind the perfect one. It’s the reason you end up being the gift recipient of a creepy cat clock, which you now have to re-gift to your child’s teacher because you also waited too long to shop  It’s a vicious cycle that can easily be broken by beating the holiday rush. When the clock is ticking (no pun intended), people tend to grab whatever is left over.

You can be a confident and money-savvy gifter when you take the time to shop around. Browsing gift guides for inspiration is a great place to start. You’ll also have the opportunity to price match to make sure you’re getting the best bang for your buck.

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3. All The Christmas Stockings!

 The closer you shop to Christmas Eve, the more you begin to feel like you’re in one of those post-apocalyptic movies, hunting and scavenging nearly empty store shelves for supplies.

 But in this case, it’s Lego because the 500 pieces that currently occupy your living room floor, some of which are now permanently embedded in your feet, aren’t enough.

 Shopping earlier or during times of the year when items are at their peak season guarantees there will be plenty of stock to choose from.

Tip: Subscribe to the mailing lists of your favourite stores to get early access to specials and even exclusive deals right to your inbox. This ensures you’re one of the first in line to scoop up the item as soon as it goes on sale and before it goes out of stock.

4. It's not just the weather OUTSIDE that's frightful

If you’ve ever tried doing hot yoga in a snowsuit while balancing several heavy bags of rocks in each hand and a coffee on your head, that’s what shopping in the wintertime feels like. Walking around the mall with all those layers on–puffy coats, sweaters, scarves, and mitts–plus all the shopping bags is exhausting just talking about. And that’s if you can even make it there through all the snowstorms.

Not having to shop in the winter means fewer layers and nicer weather conditions to contend with. You also don’t have to worry about stores and banks suddenly closing because of bad weather. Besides, it’s much easier to push a full shopping cart when you’re not having to plow through 5-feet of snow across the entire parking lot while your kids scream in your ear to go faster. We call this shopping move the downward sled dog.

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5. Shopping in Your PJs

Many parents don’t have time to shop in-store during the holidays. Did we mention that parents are busy? I mean we eat 156 meals a year standing up for goodness sake! Seriously, there was a study about it and everything. The alternative is shopping online. 

Online shopping is the most convenient way to purchase gifts because you can do it from anywhere at any time from your mobile device. Product selection is often better online with additional styles and colours to choose from.

You can conveniently have gifts shipped directly to your house for a small fee or to the nearest store for free. Make sure to double check each retailers website for shipping deadlines as they may vary.

6. Rocking The Ship Out of Christmas

If you have gifts to ship, getting your shop on early guarantees you won’t be scrambling to get everything delivered by Christmas or get stuck using couriers and paying expensive priority fees. You can take advantage of free shipping at some retailers like Amazon and eBay when you shop ahead of the busy holiday period. You’re also prepared if the post office inconveniently goes on strike, which could cause delivery delays.

Make sure to check out the shipping deadlines for retailers and the post office so they can ship those pants out early or you’ll be shipping your pants come December 22nd.

7. No Cuts, No Buts, No Crowds Going Nuts

The worst aspects of holiday shopping are undoubtedly the large crowds and endless lineups. It’s amazing what people are willing to do for a deal like camp out for days in the blistering cold huddled next to strangers, making small talk while discreetly relieving themselves in a urine bag. If this isn’t how you want to spend your holidays, get to the stores before the Christmas season starts, even before Black Friday.

Shopping during the retail off-season means no queues or angry mall mobs to fend off or customers next to you eyeballing your shopping cart. Let’s not even talk about parking. Get your shopping done during non-holiday periods and we promise you’ll be in and out of the store faster than you can say Happy Hour.

8. Gifting Like Santa and Saving Like Scrooge

The most wonderful time of the year often turns into the most expensive time of the year for most families. Nevermind buying gifts for friends, relatives, teachers, the mailman, and the dog, but there’s also the food, the drinks, the parties, and the travel expenses. Hmm…starting to see things from Scrooge’s perspective.

The benefit of shopping early or slowly throughout the year is that you can spread out your expenses into more manageable funds. Make the effort to put together a budget at the beginning of the year, or at the very least, the beginning of the season. Setting spending limits for gifts and additional holiday expenses is also a good idea. All of these steps can help save you time, money, and stress.

9. Saying Yes to No Stress

Nothing turns someone into a Grinch faster than the stress of the holidays. The key is to be organized and have a plan of attack. Otherwise, you will be stuck Christmas Eve running around like a chicken with your head cut off at the grocery store, ironically, holding a couple of frozen chickens because the grocery store ran out of turkeys.

There’s a reason your annoying friend, the one who hums Christmas carols in July and has her gifts wrapped and under the tree by November 1st, is so happy and cheery all the time. She doesn’t have to step foot in a store during the holidays! Imagine how great it would be to have all your holiday shopping done early this year? You can sit back with your glass of wine, binge watch Christmas movies all night and still have time to move the stupid Elf on the Shelf before the kids wake up.

10. More Time for Fun and Family

With the shopping out of the way, you’ll have more opportunity to spend with your loved ones and do all the Hallmark Christmas stuff you never get to do like roast chestnuts on an open fire! Even though you’re allergic to nuts, you’re doing it anyway because people sing about it and you have time now. And you can send out Christmas cards with an adorable photo of your family in matching reindeer pyjamas. Finally, you can rub your holiday happiness in everyone else’s face!

Turns out your holiday-obsessed friend and those retail Christmas creeps were on to something after all. The key to enjoying the holidays is actually getting to enjoy the holidays. Who knew? So give yourself the gift of shopping early this year so you can spend more time with the people you care about instead of a bunch of salty strangers ready to rumble over $2 bath towels.

Melanie Gibson is a Canadian comedy writer and spokesperson known for her razor-sharp wit and dry/sarcastic humour. When she’s not writing, you can find her in the ‘hood, fighting off invisible bad guys with her two sidekicks (sons, ages 1 & 3) and rescuing wine trapped in bottles.

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