Is it just me, or do the holiday items seem to come out a little bit earlier each year? I mean, fake Christmas trees for sale at Costco and holiday décor for sale at Macy's in September – really?
Consumers are obviously buying these products since retailers wouldn't waste valuable floor space if they weren't. But by extending the holiday shopping season so dramatically, it's easy for shoppers to get burned out by Frosty the Snowman decorations when they are still running their air-conditioning while driving to the store.
So I hit the streets of cyberspace and asked some shopping experts for their best tips to avoid holiday shopping fatigue. The results will hopefully inspire you to change your holiday shopping habits and make it to mid-December without a meltdown.
1. Shop throughout the year.
If the recent holiday displays popping up in stores makes you think you need to start shopping, you're actually late to the party. Many shoppers have been keeping their eyes peeled for deals on gift ideas since Dec. 26 of last year.
Kimberly Danger, author and founder of MommySavers.com, is a fan of the shop year-round strategy. "For me, shopping throughout the year serves two purposes: It helps me save money because I have time to shop sales and clearance racks to get the best deals possible," she says. "Secondly, it helps eliminate the stress associated with last-minute shopping. That's when most shoppers are likely to overspend."
If you are not already a year-round holiday shopper, become one next year and you'll be able to shrug your shoulders at the early holiday displays because you know you are way ahead of the game.
2. Don't take on too much.
Do not tackle all your holiday shopping in one fell swoop, says Jennifer Melnick Carota, owner and licensed counselor of the Counseling House in Belle Vernon, Pa. "One of the leading causes of anxiety, particularly when shopping, is taking on too much all at one time," she says. "Reduce your stress by breaking your holiday shopping into chunks throughout the year and save money at the same time." She advises to take advantage of end-of-season sales on merchandise and stash away your finds for the holiday season or a special occasion. "Your wallet and sanity will thank you," she says.
3. Never holiday shop alone.
Another great way to reduce anxiety spurred by your holiday to-do list is to enlist a friend or two to shop with you. Carly Fauth, head of marketing at MoneyCrashers.com, takes a friend or family member along on all holiday shopping excursions. "I used to think that this would just add time to my shopping trip and increase fatigue, but the opposite turned out to be true," she says. "I spent a lot less time standing in store aisles stressing out about finding the perfect gifts, and I also got a lot less frustrated when standing in a lengthy checkout line."
4. It's OK to put it off.
Let's face it, there is a chunk of the population that will always procrastinate on holiday shopping. Whether the arrival of Christmas items in stores puts a knot in your stomach, or you just don't have the time, embrace your procrastination tendencies and feel free to put it off.
Kendal Perez, a blogger with hasslefreesavings.com, says the holiday season can comprise up to 20 percent of retailers' total earnings for the year, so "they push holiday shopping way earlier than necessary." Her advice: "Ignore the red and green and know you have plenty of time to shop for the holidays. In fact, events like free shipping day are designed to help you avoid the Christmas creep – offering free shipping and delivery by Christmas Eve for orders placed on Dec. 18."
5. Focus on autumn.
Between now and Christmas is a pretty nice season called autumn, with harvest festivals, the changing of the leaves, Halloween parties, and of course, Thanksgiving. Focusing on those pleasures removes the "I have to get ready for Christmas NOW!" mentality and helps you enjoy the here and now.
The bottom line is to not let the stress of the holidays ruin the activities and potential memories you can make between now and Thanksgiving.
Kyle James is the founder of Rather-Be-Shopping.com, which lists online coupons and codes to more than 900 popular stores.