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I know it’s weird to think about making Christmas cookies when you’re still planning a summer camping trip, but now’s the time to start Christmas shopping prep so you can chill when the holidays do roll around. Too fast.
If you follow this guide, the last two weeks before the holidays, you’ll be all zen in your fleece leggings, with a hot cup of cocoa in hand and Christmas music playing in the background.
For more holiday shopping tips, money-saving deals, and coupons download the KCL app.
Christmas Shopping To Do List for July: Make a List
Main goals: List-making, budgeting, and reminding yourself Christmas will be here faster than you can put on your sunglasses and say: “Another margarita, please.”
1. Set your Christmas budget — include gifts, food, decor.
Look at what you spent last year, and use that as a realistic measure of what you’ll spend again.
2. Download The Christmas Gift List Lite to make Christmas lists for all your people. (Don’t worry, you can add to it later!)
3. Make your list for holiday cards.
Similar to above, this doesn’t have to be set in stone, but it’s smart to decide now who will receive your holiday card this year and have it done before fall begins. Also, it takes time to update addresses.
Set it aside and use it to order holiday cards in October.
4. Buy art supplies for stocking stuffers during the Back-to-School season.
For great stocking stuffers, grab art supplies like crayons, paper, glue, markers, paint, and more during Back-to-School sales that ramp up in July. You won’t find them cheaper during Black Friday, so shop now and set those items aside for the holidays.
PRO TIP: Also look for sales on any items you’ll need for DIY Christmas decorations. Often stores will put entire craft sections on sale during Back-to-School season even if the items aren’t school supplies.
Christmas Shopping Prep in August: Sign up for all the things.
Main goals: Sign up for all the store loyalty programs, apps, and websites. And then go sit by the pool.
5. Sign up for store loyalty programs at Kohl’s, Sears, JCPenney, ULTA, and Dick’s Sporting Goods.
Sign up for store loyalty programs at Kohls, Sears, JCPenney, ULTA, and Dick’s Sporting Goods and you’ll start earning points that convert store cash you can spend to buy Christmas presents. These are a few of the stores we see a ton of great deals on when Black Friday Five (the week leading up to Black Friday) happens.
6. Sign up for apps and websites (think: ibotta, Rakuten) that offer cash back you can add to your Christmas budget.
After setting your Christmas budget and possibly realizing you don’t want to spend as much as you spent last year, plan to make up the extra income by redeeming ibotta rebates when you grocery shop or using Rakuten or RetailMeNot when you shop online.
Learn how to make the most of rebate apps with the KCL Ultimate Guide to Rebate Apps.
What you earn shopping through rebate apps and websites depends on what you’re spending (typically 2-10% back on your purchases, depending on the retailer).
7. Set deal alerts on Google Flights.
Set deal alerts on Google Flights or your favorite airline to track flights and get the best price. Make sure you can cancel and get a refund or credit if the CDC issues travel warnings.
8. Stock up on clothes from The Children’s Place to give as Christmas gifts.
The Children’s Place clothing hits up to 80% off in August, and when you know how to earn and spend Place Bucks, you’ll not only get killer deals on school clothes, but you’ll be able to get any clothes you want to give as gifts as well.
Getting ready for the holidays in September: Check your Xmas list twice
Main goals: Make all the things and check your list twice!
9. Refine your Christmas shopping list.
By mid-September, plenty of retailers are rolling out new holiday toys (HINT: Costco is one of the first to display holiday toys) that will turn into most-wanted gifts come later in the season. Prepare for new device releases from Apple and Amazon in September too.
10. Make all your homemade gifts. (Don’t forget teachers!)
Just check this one off the list as soon as you can to avoid stress in the remaining weeks before the holiday! Here’s some inspiration:
11. Make an Advent calendar your kids will love.
When I was a kid, my mom just bought the Advent calendars at the grocery store with chocolate in them. But now, there are hundreds of ways to give your kids a daily Advent surprise and celebrate the holiday season.
12. Make and freeze cookie dough.
Cookie dough lasts 9-12 months in the freezer. Get it all prepped now, so in December, you’re just cutting out cookies and baking them with your kids.
PRO TIP: Freeze drop cookies in individual drops by placing them in the freezer on a baking sheet overnight. Remove cookie dough drops from the tray and put them in a Ziploc bag in the freezer. Thaw for 20 minutes and cook!
Christmas preparation for October: Steal from Halloween
Main goal: Use and abuse Halloween for all your Christmas needs.
13. Opt into deal alerts on the free KCL app.
Planning Christmas shopping around Black Friday deals can be overwhelming, but we’re here to make it easier than ever. Just download the free KCL app and customize your push notifications settings according to the products and brands on your Christmas shopping list.
For instance, if you’re looking for Apple deals, turn on Apple deal alerts and we’ll send you the hottest Apple deals as soon as they’re available so you get first dibs while product is still in stock.
14. Use the “10 free greeting cards” promotions on Shutterfly, Snapfish, and Vistaprint.
Start watching greeting card sites like Shutterfly, Snapfish. and Vistaprint for free card promotions in October. Since these offers are usually only good for 10 cards at a time, make an order every couple of weeks or whenever the offer becomes available (usually multiple times a month) until you have enough to mail to all your family and friends.
15. Buy holiday pajamas if that’s your thing.
I waited to buy my kids holiday pajamas until the week before Christmas one year. Never again. Buy these as soon as you see them, because the best styles sell out fast.
16. Shop Halloween clearance and make super cheap Christmas decor.
You can save money on Christmas decor by repurposing Halloween clearance items. Make a plan for your decor, and start working on it now so it’s done by the time Thanksgiving rolls around.
17. Buy clearance Halloween candy to use for baking and stocking stuffers.
You can save up to 70% on Halloween candy when you shop using this strategy. And even if you don’t start shopping for candy until after Halloween, you’re still going to save when it all hits clearance prices.
See all the candy coupons and deals.
Christmas Shopping To Do List for November: Get your game face on.
Main goal: Get your shopping game face on, because it’s about to get real.
18. Get a Target RedCard.
Trust me, you’re going to want a Target RedCard when Black Friday deals roll around. Target often offers their best deals as exclusives for RedCard holders only. Plus, in 2020, they offered a $40 off coupon when you sign up for the RedCard!
The RedCard is available as a debit or credit card. Both give you 5% back on every purchase you make at Target.
19. Buy wine at BevMo! during their $0.05 sale.
For a cheap deal on wine, grab a friend, and split a case at BevMo! during their $0.05 sale. Buy one bottle and get the second for a nickel! Right before the holidays they also send out exclusive BevMo! member coupons that you can stack with sale prices.
PRO TIP: Create a BevMo! account online and you will automatically get a BevMo! Reward number so you will always get their money-saving promos.
20. Get a free Thanksgiving turkey and ham for Christmas.
Start looking for free turkey deals at grocery stores right when November starts. Not every store offers them, and you’ll likely need to spend a minimum amount of money on groceries in order to qualify.
21. Send out your holiday cards.
Get your holiday cards in the mail so they get to where they’re going before Christmas.
22. Sign up for Amazon Prime if you haven’t already, and use your free month to shop for Christmas gifts.
If you time it right, you can sign up for Amazon Prime just in time to use it free for one month while you’re using it for your online Christmas shopping.
23. Take your family to cut down a fresh Christmas tree on the cheap.
Plan a day to get outside and cut down your own Christmas tree. You may need to buy a $4-$12 permit, depending on your state’s law. For example, in Idaho, we pay $5 for a permit to cut down a tree on the Bureau of Land Management land as long as we follow their guidelines.
Google: “[your state] christmas tree permits.”
24. Decorate the house and plan out what parties and activities you’ll say yes to in December.
And more importantly, what you’re gonna say no to!
Decide now and you may be able to avoid feeling pressured to attend something your family’s schedule doesn’t have time for.
25. Follow KCL’s Black Friday deals page and shop Black Friday with a strategy.
The 30 days leading up to Black Friday are crucial for deals. In fact, outside of a few things you’ll need to buy sooner than Black Friday (like art supplies, Amazon brand items, and TCP clothes), you should plan to buy everything on your list during these 30 days we’ve dubbed “Thanksgiving Thirty.”
And it all starts with the KCL Black Friday Deals page.
Christmas prepping in December: Time to chill.
Main goals: Freaking enjoy as many non-stress days as you can. You earned this! (And then get yourself to the store for after-Christmas clearance sales.)
26. Finish all your holiday baking.
27. Finish up all online shopping on December 14th – Free Shipping Day.
Loads of stores participate in Free Shipping Day, so it’s a great time to shop stores online that normally charge a shipping fee.
It’s also a good day to aim for having all your shopping done in general. It gives you a solid 12 days before Christmas to relax.
28. Enjoy the holidays with your people.
Take the time to enjoy the holidays with family and friends.
29. After Christmas, shop sales for holiday wrapping and decor.
After-Christmas clearance sales will save you tons of money on wrapping paper, bows, and holiday decor for next Christmas.
30. Sign up for a travel rewards credit card and start earning points you can convert into free travel for next Christmas.
Want free travel next Christmas? Or maybe a free trip for the whole family to Disneyland during the holidays? Sign up for a travel rewards credit card like the Chase Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus card.
Pay your credit card bill every month so you don’t owe interest, and this is a great way to get free travel.