It's June, time to think about gifts for Christmas

These five steps can save a lot of time and money buying gifts for Christmas.

By , Guest blogger

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    A shopper looks to buy cards after Christmas at Woodfield Mall in Schaumburg, Ill., in this 2004 file photo. By taking these five steps, you can save a lot of time and money buying gifts for Christmas now, months before the holiday rush.
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It’s mid-June, so there’s no better time to write about Christmas. Right? Right?!

The truth of the matter is that just a little bit of forethought right now can save you a ton of time, effort, cost, and heartache this December. While it might feel really out of place to think about Christmas on a warm June day, right now is the perfect time to give these five things a quick thought.

Kill off unwanted gift exchanges
If you’re a member of a gift exchange or two with family that you just don’t want to participate in, right now is the time to put an axe in it. Just send out an email or a Facebook message to the other members of the exchange stating the truth of the matter: you enjoy seeing the people, but you don’t think a gift exchange is a great idea.

Recommended: Worst toys for Christmas 2012

If completely bowing out seems potentially damaging, suggest that this year be a “secret Santa” drawing instead of everyone buying everyone else gifts or put a strong cap on how much can be spent.

Doing this now is much better than doing it in late November or the middle of December when people are already financially and emotionally involved in their holiday purchasing. The solution to too many Christmas gifts purchased is just an email away.

Get the important people on your radar
For most of us, there are a handful of people that we’re going to buy Christmas gifts for this year. Since these people are truly important enough to us to be an automatic gift recipient, we often desire to find the “perfect” gift for them.

That’s why I start my list now, so I have plenty of time and space to listen to what they’re saying, think about what they’d value, and come up with great gift ideas (and bargains on those ideas) well in advance of the big day rather than stumbling through Target on December 20th, pushing aside the hordes and scavenging whatever overlooked items remain on the shelves in hopes of finding something they won’t find too repugnant.

Just start a list of the people you want to buy for, then pay attention to them in the coming months. Most people will reveal deep interests and passions and sometimes even specific ideas over the course of the year. For example, maybe your sister will mention a type of sweater she finds particularly flattering, or maybe your father will lament not having grow lights so he can start seedlings in the basement in January instead of having to buy starts for his garden in April. Write these down, as they can be the source of great gifts.

Start automatic bargain hunting
If you’re certain of a particular purchased gift for someone already, there’s no better time than now to start bargain hunting.

Already?

Well, it doesn’t have to be as painful as it sounds. Let’s say, for example, that you have decided to buy your sister’s oldest son a Playstation 3 for Christmas this year – but you don’t want to spend a mint on it. Right now is the best time to start automatically bargain hunting for it.

You can use tools like FeedSifter to sift through the internet feeds of websites that list bargains related to what you’re looking for – like, for example, Amazon Gold Box. Then, put that FeedSifter feed into a service like FeedMailer so that whenever a deal pops up, you receive an email telling you about it.

Then sit back and wait. The exact deals you want will pop into your email inbox as they come up. Easy as pie.

I already have six of these running related to two different potential Christmas gifts.

Plan ahead for homemade gifts
Some of us (myself included) love to receive homemade gifts – and we love to make them, too.

The problem is that some of them take a lot of advance planning. In order to age well, you need to be considering making things like homemade beer and homemade soaps now rather than in November. If you’re going to knit some sweaters, now’s the time to bust out the yarn and the needles, for example.

If you’d like to save a lot of money and come up with some really memorable gifts, go homemade. The catch? You probably should start now on whatever that project is, because you’ll likely need some time between then and now to cause that gift idea to become reality.

Make it easier on last-minute gift hunters for you
In my family, a lot of people wait until the last minute to do gift shopping. They wait until December 15, then call around in a panic and search internet wish lists (like Amazon’s) for some sort of an indication as to what people want for a gift. Yes, each year, I get calls where people directly ask me what I want for Christmas.

Of course, the typical response to this is to try to think of stuff quickly off of the top of your head – items that usually end up not being items you really want or could actually use, but are items that just seem to randomly float in your head.

Take that challenge head on. Spend some time thinking of a handful of items you could genuinely use in your life. Once you discover them, put them on an Amazon wish list (or something similar), then if last-minute panicked calls come in, you don’t have to rack your brain coming up with half-baked ideas. You can actually point out items that you have thought about in advance and can genuinely put to good use in your home.

There’s no need to promote this list, of course – just create it as something of a protection against last-minute gifts that turn out to be items that you don’t want and they grasp at straws to buy. With just a bit of effort now, you can turn a situation where no one wins into something useful for yourself and something gratifying for the last minute gift buyer.

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