Shopping early? Stay organized for the holidays

10/01/2012 12:00 AM

09/30/2012 6:53 PM

Here’s a savvy shopper confession: This article is a bit of a self-help exercise.

I am borderline fanatical about fall and winter holidays, and I start dreaming of Christmas trees and turkeys as soon as the first school bell rings.

But here’s my problem: I start my Christmas shopping early, but that only means the list grows. And, by Christmas morning, we have a scene in colossal overindulgence.

Retailers like those of us who can be lured into stores by carols, shiny tinsel, deep discounts and a smattering of small children who are enchanted by Santa.

Walmart, in fact, lengthened its holiday layaway program by 30 days and promised shoppers a fee refund when the purchase is paid in full.

Toys R Us is dropping its fee altogether for customers who use the layaway program before Oct. 31.

But waiting to shop can have advantages.

Dan de Grandpre, founder of the bargain hunting website, says the deals from the three weeks after Black Friday were better than the deals from the three weeks before Black Friday by 31 percent in 2011.

“The difference is even more pronounced if you remove Thanksgiving Day, which was just as good as Black Friday for deals in 2011,” he says. “Then the deals from the three weeks after Black Friday were better than the deals from the three weeks before Thanksgiving by 56 percent.”

That’s where my failure originates — too much deal hunting.

Staying organized can be the cure. Here are some tips.

Keep a list

Autumn Barnes, of Hampton, Va., says she organizes her gifts in a plastic bin and uses a Google share document that she and her husband can both access to keep track of purchases.

“It’s one of those things where if I have a picture in my head of what I want to get someone and I see it on sale, I go for it,” she says.

Other list programs: My Christmas Gift List app for iPhone ($2.99),,


Selena Van Hout, of Newport News, Va., keeps track of her holiday budget by squirreling away extra money throughout the year into a separate account.

She also takes advantage of rewards programs to earn points and freebies at Christmastime.

“When we see something, we get it and pack it away for Christmas,” she says. “We also use Coke rewards points to get little gifts for our boys who love Coke stuff. And shipping is free. We got one of our sons a cookie jar already.”

Other yearlong rewards programs:, credit card rewards programs,

Color code

Christine Leach, of Hampton, organizes her holiday decorations in colored plastic bins with labels.

“I make sure that they are locking, in some manner,” she says. “The labeling may change from year to year as I get more stuff, downsize by getting rid of old, or decide a better manner in organizing.”

Leach uses orange bins to hold fall and Halloween items. You could use red bins for Christmas, and green bins for Easter.

“I still get the clear, colored bins so I can always see what’s inside, too,” she adds.

Hide the gifts

Mary Frances Ballard, author of “Orderly Places,” encourages early shoppers to wrap gifts as soon as they come into the house.

“Use coded name tags or wrapping for children’s gifts so they won’t be tempted to open them,” she says. “Keep the wrapping simple and generic. Plain papers with pretty ribbons are great. If appropriate, let family members help with this task.”

There is no secret place to store gifts if you have children over age 8, she adds.

“Purge some of those linens, clothes you never wear and outgrown toys to make more room in your house,” she says.

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