In Debt & Being Smart: Christmas Shopping in March

DH = Dear Husband
DD1 = Dear First Daughter
DD2 = Dear Second Daughter
DD3 = Dear Third Daughter

March Break Snow Storm – March Break Shopping

                This past week was the March Break, and Wednesday afternoon, in the middle of a snow storm, DD3 asked if I would drive her to the mall with her friend. I made a plan: I would use the time to do some Christmas shopping.
                Let me just state how radical this plan was for me. Never before in my life had I ever bought Christmas gifts before October. The vast majority of my holiday shopping has always been carried out against the backdrop of a late December rush. So what inspired the change? An anonymous comment on a post I wrote in December, In Debt& On A Christmas Budget: “I think the best time to set-up a budget for Christmas is on January 2nd and start saving right away,” somebody wrote. “Just going by your numbers, it would be easier to put aside $150/month starting in January than trying to scrounge $1600 at the beginning of December (or, heaven forbid, put it on a credit card). If you have some money aside, you can track your recipients’ wants/desires throughout the year and pick up gifts when they go on sale.” In my response to this wise person, I committed to buying at least a few gifts on sale early in the year.
                And I’ve done it. I drove DD3 and her friend to the mall, arranged a time and place to meet two hours later, and started on my mission. Clothing is a popular item on my daughters’ Christmas wish lists, so I was in a good place to make it all happen. Despite the snow storm, I knew that winter clothing would be on sale. There’s a rumour spreading around here that spring is going to happen soon, and although it’s completely unsubstantiated, every storefront window featured breezy spring attire. People who arrange the layout of merchandise in stores have me figured out. They put the most expensive items on display at the entrance, leaving plenty of space for customers to stand there mesmerized. Items on sale are crowded into some back corner in an untended sloppiness devoid of appeal. And who wants to look at winter clothing at this point anyway?
                I started with a store that both DD1 and DD2 really like, only to find out that their sale had just ended. There wouldn’t be another one until June. No problem. I’d be back in three months’ time. So I went to DD3’s favourite store – a calculated risk since I might actually bump into her there. “Do you have anything on sale?” I asked the friendly clerk. “Yes,” she said, “just along the back wall and up the side a bit.” I looked. “Right under the big yellow signs that say ‘SALE’?” I smiled. She nodded graciously, and off I went. True to form, the sales racks held a mish-mash of items, but I worked my way through them, sought advice, and came up with four items to put under the tree for DD3. If I had made the purchase in December, I would have spent $127. Buying the clothing on sale in March, my bill came out to $51.

Keeping Track

                My job now will be to keep track. The Christmas budget we put together in December designated $300 in gifts for each of our children, and the way I see it, we’ve bought $127 of that total for DD3 already. My sister told me a cautionary tale of her own “smart Christmas shopping”. Not only does she buy gifts throughout the year; she also wraps them well in advance. Two years ago, her young adult son had plans to go north to find work, and in the months leading up to Christmas that year, my sister’s maternal worry worked fiercely upon her. On the morning of December 25th, my nephew opened up eight pairs of mittens. The first two or three were taken in stride, but by the time he got to pair number five, all he could say was, “Mom . . . It’s another pair of mitts.” Numbers six, seven, and eight brought on great laughter – always a good thing at Christmas. My sister hadn’t kept track, and since she had wrapped each pair after purchasing, she was as surprised as everyone else at all the mittens under the tree. Subconscious forces had turned her into a magnet for sales of outdoor winter clothing, and she had bought and spent far too much. But her son is now gainfully employed in the far north. And his hands are warm.
                I felt remarkably clever after my March Christmas shopping. The snow storm eventually stopped Wednesday night, and Thursday morning, still feeling high on an unaccustomed sense of competence, I woke up early with DH to shovel the driveway. Winter always looks best after a fresh snowfall under a bright sun, and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. It was beautiful. Just like Christmas.

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  1. One of these days I’d love to have a large party – BYOM – Bring your odd mitts. Everyone would bring their mateless mitts and see if they could find a partner for them. It may turn into a great mingling catalyst in which not only single mitts would find a mate! In either case, a perfect match would not be necessary. A navy blue large and navy blue medium might just do. An extrovert woman and an introvert man may find love.
    Post party, money in the budget for mitt purchases could be spent on romantic dinners! S.S.

    1. S.S. I think you are on to something! I’ve heard of odd sock gatherings, but I believe a trend of odd mitt parties is soon on its way. You should get an odd-mitt/dating-service-party franchise going : )

  2. Wow, good job for starting Christmas shopping so early. I don’t have the wherewithal for starting this early. I would end up giving the gifts as birthday or “just because” gifts. I get too excited when I pick out a good gift for somebody!

    1. Thanks for the comment, Daisy. I would never have foreseen myself shopping early for Christmas, hunting down the sales, money in hand. So when you say, “I don’t have the wherewithal . . .” I have to challenge you. I’ve been on this journey out of debt for almost two years, and only now is my inner-wise-shopper starting to emerge. Prepare you discover your own : )

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