You wait all year for fall to arrive, and once it does, you want to make the most of this wonderful season. But the arrival of autumn also means the holidays are fast approaching, and that means you’re going to need to get your shopping done soon.

And every year, it seems you need to do it even sooner than usual.

Thankfully, there are plenty of ways to make sure you still score the perfect gifts this holiday season for your spouse and children, and don’t end up missing out on everything on their list. Here’s how.

Why shopping early is a smart idea this year

Sure it’s fun to run into friends, but brushing elbows with strangers in a crowded mall isn’t many people’s idea of fun, but that’s the reality for those that procrastinate on their holiday gift list.

Personal shopper and wardrobe consultant Sahra Schukraft prefers to start earlier in the season than everyone else. “I start in September, for budgeting reasons,” she says.

A photo of holiday shopping tips with three people on a couch exchanging christmas gifts

Now, don’t feel pressured into doing the same, but Schukraft says you also shouldn’t wait to start your holiday shopping until just after Thanksgiving — waiting for those with Black Friday sales. “If there’s something specific on your list, it’s good to shop early and ensure you have that special gift before risking it not being available,” she advises. If your young ones have activities after school or in the evening, maybe you can fit in some shopping time in between drop-off and pick-up.

Five types of gifts to consider

No matter when you start your holiday shopping, some gifts will be easier to acquire than others. Here are five suggestions for presents that won’t leave you frustrated by low inventory at the last minute.

Sign up for a subscription

Most people receive so many gifts over the holidays that it becomes challenging to appreciate each one. Consider spreading the fun throughout the year by signing up your loved one for a monthly subscription. It’s an easy way to ensure your gift is enjoyed long after the decorations are put away.

These can be anything from makeup subscription boxes to book clubs to monthly food deliveries. The options for the latter are plentiful, ranging from gourmet cookies to chocolate-covered strawberries to flavored popcorn to fine wine, and bakery favorites.

“If there’s something specific on your list, it’s good to shop early and ensure you have that special gift before risking it not being available.”

Sahra Schukraft, Founder, Shop the City

If the gift goes over well, consider making subscriptions an annual tradition by switching up the theme for next year’s holiday gift.

Book an adventure

If you want to make memories this holiday season, buy an experience, not a material possession.

“I love this idea for parents and couples who are too busy to spend much time with each other,” Schukraft says. “You can gift a date night or experience and include the cost of a babysitter or dog sitter to ensure it’s a no-stress gift for the receiver.”

A photo of holiday shopping tips with two people sitting outside having a picnic with a mountain in the background

Think beyond the norm and book your foodie-loving partner a specialty cooking lesson, paint-and-sip watercolor and wine tasting party, or local dinner cruise (for once the weather warms). Consider going even bigger by reserving a weekend stay at a local bed and breakfast.

This lets you give two gifts in one — the thrill of anticipation and the enjoyment of the experience once it happens.

Go the gift card route

If your time is limited and you just can’t think of the right present, there’s nothing wrong with giving a gift card. After all, letting someone else select their own gift ensures they’ll come away with something they love.

And, as Schukraft points out, gift cards don’t have to be used toward the purchase of an item.

“I’ve found that gift cards for my services, including online classes and wardrobe consultations (especially virtual ones), have risen lately,” Schukraft said.

Consider gift cards for a spa package, pet grooming, or even a clothing rental service.

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Buy local

Skip the hassle of overseas shipping by keeping money within your local community.

“Personally, I love shopping at my local maker markets,” Schukraft says. “I go to two to three in the fall and stock up on unique gifts from small businesses. Some people really appreciate receiving the kinds of locally made, small-batch items that you’ll find there.”

You can also consider making purchases that support organizations you care about. This will magnify the impact of your gift beyond just the warmth and generosity it conveys to the recipient.

Shop used

Two words: think vintage. Devote a Saturday to scouring your local thrift stores for hidden treasures, or take the search online, where there are dozens of online consignment stores and bidding sites to browse through. You might even find a lightly used version of a hard-to-find item on your child’s list.

Bonus: Get double the benefits by listing some of your own family’s stuff for sale. Your unwanted belongings might make someone else’s holiday season, and you’ll increase your present-buying funds — and space for receiving new gifts — in the process.


Lydia Noyes specializes in content creation related to environmental topics, homesteading, organic gardening, health, fitness, and nutrition. Her online writing is featured in hundreds of articles for brands and publications within the health and wellness industry, including the popular gardening website, Rural Sprout.

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