The holidays are supposed to be a fun and relaxing time to focus on being with your loved ones. If it feels like the holidays have lost some of the magic because of a tight budget, tight schedule, COVID restrictions, and the overall gifting process, I'm here to help. I'm giving you 15 holiday shopping hacks to minimize the stress of buying gifts, so you can re-focus on what really matters this season.
1. #1 holiday shopping hack: start shopping now.
For the 2021 holiday season, the biggest holiday shopping hack you need to know is to start early. A survey by CreditCards.com found that 27% of holiday shoppers planned to start buying gifts in the end of September. In 2020, COVID pushed more shoppers online, which meant that retailers started with sales and deals even before Black Friday. This year, we’re likely to see Black Friday level deals all November—and possibly even in October.
Moreover, retailers want to extend their deals over a longer period to minimize crowds in physical storefronts, particularly with COVID limitations. Combined with severe supply chain and shipping delays, shopping early is the only way to guarantee you’ll be able to buy what you want at a reasonable price and have it in-hand in time for holiday gifting. Read this Washington Post article about how the delta variant is leading to empty shelves, long waits, and higher prices this season.
For consumers, shopping early has a lot of benefits:
- You can start finding bargains before holiday prices hit. (Did you know that a lot of retailers raise their prices during the holiday season? They might raise the price from $100 to $110, so that they can offer 40% off instead of 30% off. The deal seems better to the consumer—but the retailer would only be making $4 less! Combined with price hikes due to COVID, shopping early is the best way to make sure you make purchases before prices skyrocket.)
- You don’t run the risk of box stores running out of inventory of your preferred gift items (particularly toys for kids). Stores are already low on stock, so get in there before they’re out.
- You don’t have to deal with the anxiety of packages not showing up in time, especially since shipping carriers are already expecting heavy delays and expensive shipping rates this season.
- You can be present and enjoy the remainder of the holiday season knowing that gifting is out of the way. Focus on family and fun!
2. Make a holiday shopping list.
Create a list of everyone you need to shop for. Then, come up with some gift ideas or what you’re planning to get them. You can also use this list to keep track of the gifts you’ve already purchased, so you don’t accidentally buy someone multiple gifts or forget someone entirely.
Creating a gift list also helps you budget, so you can get a sense of how much you will be spending on each gift and in total. You might be able to make adjustments that will better suit your budget, take note of which items you’ll be trying to snag for a lower price, or plan ahead if you want to save up for a special gift.
3. Put holiday shopping on your to-do list.
Energy is the most important resource you have, so getting burnt out by overexerting yourself isn’t going to be good for you or your family. Set aside time to create your holiday gift list as well as to do the shopping. Don’t think about holiday shopping all the time, particularly if it exhausts you. Put shopping on your to-do list with everything else, so you know you have time set aside to get it done without stress.
Keep in mind that thinking about holiday shopping all the time or keeping yourself too busy will make you more likely to over-purchase and over-consume, so you could end up stretching your budget, your time, and your energy way too thin!
Psst… Put rest and relaxation time on your to-do list too! You deserve a little self-care, including fashion self-care, to keep you looking and feeling your best this holiday season.
4. Don’t extend your budget.
Respect your resources, limitations, and budget. Your friends and family deserve the best, but gifts aren’t worth putting yourself into debt. Society has unfortunately taught us that the amount we love someone is reflected in the amount we spend on them, but that’s just a ploy of consumerism to get you to spend more money. The people who love you don’t want you to stretch yourself thin to buy them something expensive. They love you because of you.
If you’re concerned about how your gifts might be perceived, talk to your loved ones. It’s hard to talk about money but being honest about what you can afford at this period is important for setting expectations and boundaries. It will be good for your relationship in the long-term since there will be no resentment or hard feelings—only love and good tidings!
Tip: If you want to keep costs low with certain friends, suggest you share an experience together instead of exchanging gifts. Maybe you and your bestie can have brunch at a fancy hotel or go see a play, so you get the benefit of quality time too!
5. Organize a Secret Santa.
If you want to minimize your spending with certain groups (like your coworkers), set up a Secret Santa. That way you only have to buy one present instead of ten—and you as the recipient also don’t end up with ten gifts that you didn’t really want. This is a great way to cut down on waste, and I’m sure most people in the group will thank you for the reduced spending.
Check out Elfster, which is a website that lets you input each person’s name and it will randomly generate Secret Santa recipients. Each group member can even add specific gifts they want to receive, so you don’t have to guess what to get for your friend’s friend’s cousin who you got in Secret Santa.
6. Hunt for bargains.
Some holiday shopping hacks we use to save money:
- Keep your gift list in mind, so you can start bargain hunting early.
- Sign up for email newsletters from brands selling specific gifts, so you can be in the know about flash deals or secret sales.
- Purchase with credit cards that offer cash back or points.
- Use cashback app extensions when shopping online, like Rakuten or Honey. (These also help you find coupon codes and deals so you can save even more money.) Also check out cashback apps like Ibotta.
- Buy early before retailers start hiking up their prices.
- Buy designer gifts from consignment stores. You can buy high-end, quality gifts at a fraction of their original ticket price.
7. Gift a “need,” rather than a want.
If you don’t know what to get someone, go for something you know that they already use and/or need. Does your friend have a newborn? They could probably use diapers. Did they just move somewhere cold? They’ll need gloves and a hat. Do they drink the same brand of coffee every day? Get them a bag of beans or a gift card. Do they live and breathe fashion magazines? Check out our gift guide for fashion lovers.
You don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Oftentimes, a gift based on need is just as thoughtful—or even more thoughtful—because it shows that you truly know your friend and want to make their life a little bit easier and brighter.
8. Buy “neutral” gifts.
Unless you know what the recipient will want, you shouldn’t get something that they’ll either love or hate. Rather, focus on the “neutral” zone.
For example, I love animal prints—but not everyone does. Gifting a cheetah print dress could either be a huge hit… or a huge flop. Unless you know that they’re a fan of animal print like me, it’s not worth taking a risk like that.
Instead, give a gift that everyone loves. Leather gloves are an elevated, sophisticated choice that’s always a hit. A delicate chain with a meaningful charm, a knit scarf, comfy lounge pants, a silk robe, and holiday PJs also always go over well. Want more ideas? Check out our winter 2021 trends article for practical gifts that any recipient will love.
9. Stick to your expertise.
If you’re reading this article, you probably love fashion. So, give a gift in the realm of fashion! By buying what you know, you’ll be able to tell what’s good quality, easily determine what your friend will lot, and you’ll probably have a lot of fun buying the gifts too!
It’s also like you’re giving them a part of you. If you know a lot about fashion, gifting them a timeless wardrobe essential can help build their closet in ways that they didn’t know before—and they’ll thank you for sharing your expertise with them! If it’s meaningful to you, it will be meaningful to them too.
For example, my friend loves plants. I like plants too but don’t know much about them. She gave me her favorite plant with a little guide on how to take care of it and why the plant holds so much meaning for her personally. It became my favorite plant in my house because of how much it meant to her and our relationship (and because she gave me step-by-step instructions on how to care for it).
10. Focus on meaningful gifts.
Less is definitely more for the 2021 holiday season. We’re taught to think more stuff is better, even if we don’t want or need it. Oftentimes, the more you end up buying for someone, the less meaning each gift holds. So, instead of focusing on the quantity or price of gifts, focus on the meaning and purpose behind each gift. Why is this gift valuable—not in terms of the price tag but in terms of your relationship to the recipient?
For example, if your friend is super eco-conscious, giving them an ethical gift shows that you care about their activism. If your friend is fashionable, a gift from Current Boutique will indulge their trendiness while also doing good for the environment (and for your wallet).
11. Make a social impact.
The fast fashion and holiday gift industries are drastically damaging to the environment. From chemicals used in production to the gas used in shipping to the overall waste, research shows that holiday shopping is killing the environment.
We can make a change with our choices, especially during the holidays. Your purchasing holds power. By shopping ethically, you can have a direct impact on reducing the negative social and environmental impacts of traditional holiday shopping.
For example, buying from a small Etsy seller could mean supporting a mom to help buy her kids’ Christmas presents. Buying from Current Boutique means keeping our employees paid and cared for during the hectic season, while also decreasing fashion waste and promoting cyclical fashion sustainability.
Check out our eco-friendly holiday gift-giving guide here to start learning more about how you can make a social impact with your purchases.
12. Buy gifts that can make it in transit.
Will you be mailing gifts across the country? If so, don’t buy anything breakable, time-sensitive, or weather-sensitive (like food). Oh, and don’t forget to send packages early due to shipping carrier delays!
You’ll also want to consider if your recipients will be traveling during the holiday season, so it’s easy enough for them to bring your gift back with them. Clothing and accessories gifts are easy to ship and pack!
13. Get your gifts wrapped.
Unless you love wrapping gifts, this is one area of the holidays that we can definitely hack. You can get your giftwrapping done for you without having to spend hours with scissors and tape—and it might even end up looking better.
While you’re out shopping, check out charity gift-wrapping services. A lot of nonprofit organizations will set up booths at malls or craft shows and wrap presents for a donation to their charity. You get to do good and give back, while also getting the wrapping out of the way! You can also always ask the store if they offer giftwrap if you’re purchasing a gift in person.
If you’ll be wrapping yourself, make sure to stock up on gift wrapping supplies during Black Friday or other deal-days to save on wrapping costs!
14. Shop online.
This holiday shopping hack seems obvious, but it’s particularly useful this year. Shopping online means you can shop for gifts from the comfort of your home. You’ll avoid stressful crowded stores and avoid any potential coronavirus situations. You’ll also be able to take your time to look at your gift list and think through each purchase (rather than in-person impulse purchases). Shopping online is fast and easy, and it can help you stay organized and a lot less stressed.
15. Have fun!
Make shopping fun by turning it into an event. Put on comfy clothes, grab a cup of hot cocoa (or cocoa mixed with coffee), turn on a holiday movie, and shop online. Or involve your kids in shopping for friends and family, or get your partner in on crafting DIY projects with you. One of the best holiday shopping hacks is to simply slow down and remember what the holidays are all about.
Take a deep breath and savor the holidays. Every holiday season is special. Kids grow up, relationships shift, and even your personal hobbies and interests might change. Take time to really enjoy the season with your loved ones and with yourself, because there will never be another 2021 holiday season.
Start whittling away at your gift list with Current Boutique. You can find high-end designer pieces at a fraction of the cost—while also doing good for the environment, for your wallet, and for your recipient!