Let the countdown to Christmas begin.
As festive lights and holiday decorations are going up, the time left in this year’s shopping season is going down.
In the 2014 calendar year, there are just 26 days between Black Friday and Christmas. Now that Black Friday is quickly becoming a distant memory, this time period is rapidly narrowing. Ensure that you won’t be left empty-handed on Christmas by following these four tips to get prepared for the fast-approaching holiday.
1. Get organized
This year’s shopping season is one day longer than 2013’s, but five days shorter than 2012’s, according to e-commerce news publisher Internet Retailer. With such a limited shopping window, there’s no room for holiday procrastination this year. Thus, it’s important to get your holiday shopping plans organized.
Take some time out of your schedule to sit down and plan out your gift giving. How many people will you be buying for this year? Do you know what everyone on your list likes, wants or needs? Make notes whenever you think of a possible gift for someone on your list.
You don’t just want to organize possible purchases, either. You also need to pencil in shopping time on your calendar. Set aside dates and times when you’ll be able to do either online or in-store shopping. If you don’t, you may find yourself stuck on Christmas Eve in a crowded mall.
2. Use digital tools
If staying organized isn’t exactly your strong suit, let technology help you out. There are a number of digital tools designed to help you create and maintain shopping lists.
Apps such as The Christmas List (for iPhone and iPad) make shopping organization as simple as a tap of a smartphone or tablet screen. Users of this app can create Christmas lists, set budgets, keep track of the status of gifts and share lists with others.
There are other options, too. Online Christmas list websites such as Giftster and CheckedTwice allow users to create, view and share wish lists with friends and family. If you use such registries, you’ll not only save yourself the time of brainstorming clever ideas – you’ll also never have to worry about buying an unwanted gift.
3. Finish online shopping early
Fewer days between Black Friday and Christmas doesn’t just mean less time to make purchases. In the case of online shopping, it also equals fewer days for packages to arrive. If you’re considering doing any of your shopping online this holiday season, you’ll need to do it soon.
If you can, try to make all of your online purchases as early as possible. This will help prevent your packages from getting caught in the last-minute delivery crunch.
Additionally, regardless of the date you’ll be placing your order, pay close attention to the particular online storefront you’re using. Oftentimes, before you make a purchase, the retailer will give you an estimated package delivery date. Some sites even provide shoppers with a date of when orders need to be placed in order to receive items before Christmas.
If you’re cutting it close with the time frame, consider having gifts shipped directly to the intended recipient, rather than to you first. Many stores offer gift-wrapping services. At Best Buy, gift givers can even opt to send gift receivers a message to let them know that a gift is coming soon.
4. Stay savvy
Unfortunately, less time to shop can make the holiday season more hectic. Shopping under duress isn’t just less fun – when you’re stressing about what to buy, some of your savvy shopper instincts may also get thrown out the window. Don’t let the limited amount of time cause you to forget about getting good deals.
In order to get the best price, remember to do your homework, compare deals between retailers and price match when possible. Also, before you make any purchase, check the store’s return policy.
Shopping bags image via Shutterstock