• Tue, Dec 24 - 9:00 am ET

When It Comes To Christmas Present Shopping I Plan Way Ahead And Still Panic At The Last Minute

shutterstock_167779622I love shopping for Christmas presents.  I love finding that thoughtful item that my mother or husband — that one thing they didn’t know they needed or that would just bring a smile to their face.  Now that I have kids, that feeling has magnified.  I know EXACTLY what they love, what makes them giggle, what occupies their tiny hands and minds.  So it’s not really a surprise to me that I’m always on the hunt for that perfect gift.  The problem is it lasts from July to Christmas Eve.

It’s not unusual for me to start buying things in the summer.  When my son points out something as we shop for a friend’s birthday party, I make a note and buy that toy later.  I get so exciting thinking how he won’t even remember that he picked it out all those months ago and how happy he’ll be that it’s back in his life.  Then of course, I’m a sucker for Black Friday sales.  I know, I know it’s a consumerism evil, but I don’t line up at 4am and for now, the stores are still open so I go looking for the really choice deals (and nothing less).  So by the end of November I’ve got myself a really great stock for both my kids and my niece and nephew.

But then something happens to me around December 15.  I think, “there’s less than two weeks until Christmas Day!  Do I have enough presents?”  The anxiety grows as the day comes closer.  I imagine them tearing through their few gifts and sitting there looking dejected on Christmas morning.  By December 23 I’m sure I have ENOUGH presents, but are they the right presents?  What’s the one thing my four-year-old has mentioned more than any other.  Clearly they won’t be getting everything they ask for, but I do hope to not disappoint them in that ONE thing they really had their heart set on.  I remember one Christmas in particular when I asked for my first Cabbage Patch Kid.  Never mind the fact that they were flying off shelves, but my family had very little money and those things were really expensive.  So I opened all my presents and couldn’t help feeling disappointed that there was no Cabbage Patch Kid.  I didn’t cry or even say anything, but I recall being really bummed in my head.  After breakfast a few hours later my parents acted shocked and said they forgot to tell us there was one more gift for each of us waiting under their bed.  It was my Cabbage Patch Kid.  To this day I remember that feeling of sheer joy all the way to my bones every time I think about it.  We may not be able to give our kids a lot, but I hope to give them a few Christmases like that.

I also have the worst (or is it the best?) fallback excuse to buy more.  My kids’ birthdays are both in February, so I rationalize that if at the end of the day I have too many gifts I can just give them the excess for their birthday.  And my hand to heaven, I actually did that last year.  I didn’t buy a single gift between Christmas and their birthdays because I was all set.   I was so proud of myself.  Because frankly who has money for anything after Christmas? So now I feel like I have a free pass to say yes to those last minute frantic buys.

And why am I frantic a few days before Christmas?  Mostly because I have no idea what I’ve already bought the kids.  We hide their gifts in random little places all around the apartment so I have no idea what my stash looks like as a whole.  Last night my husband and I took the whole thing out, separated the loot into piles for each kid Christmas, for my niece and nephew, and even both of my children’s birthday.  Turns out for all my planning AND my panicking, it all worked out perfectly.  Now I’m done…until July.

(photo: bahri altay/Shutterstock)

You can reach this post's author, Carinn Jade, on twitter.
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  • Wendy

    Love this! I can SO relate! I, too, am a Christmas planner and try to get everything done ridiculously early. Then panic sets in! This happened the other night – laying in bed w/ my son talking about Christmas. He said all he wants from Santa is a stuffed Superman toy (check) and a Wolverine figure (check…so I thought). Then he began to describe the Wolverine figure he was expecting and my heart sunk…..WE GOT THE WRONG ONE! This normally would not stress me out except the one we got was 1 inch tall and he was expecting the 12 inch guy to “play with his big Spiderman.” Given that he was finally able to show some restraint in only wanting 2 things from Santa, I felt as though I wanted to honor his wishes. Long story short, I had hubby running out that night to get the LAST Wolverine figure at Toys R Us! And I, too, vow to use the excess gifts for his birthday in January. It is assuaging my guilt for running out for a last minute toy to know that I can take away a few things from his pile and save for his birthday! AND…just found random stuff I had hidden that I had totally forgotten about too!! AHH!!!! Christmas craziness. it is all fun though, huh? Happy holidays!

  • Snarktopus

    I use excess Christmas gifts for my daughter’s birthday, too. Her birthday isn’t til July, though….Oh well, at least I do my gift shopping once a year. :)

  • Janok Place

    We meant to buy DD just one thing this year. She’s so young (18 months) she really doesn’t know the difference, not to mention the tree is flooded with grandparent gifts. We bought a really nice vintage style play kitchen… and half a dozen other things. It’s so HARD!

    • Carinn Jade

      My kids LOVE their play kitchen. I always recommend that purchase!

  • staferny

    There should be a support group for people like this. I was getting so worried that we’d have sad little stockings for Christmas that I went out and bought a schwack more stocking stuffers and then did a ‘test stuff’ when I got home. Turns out I had more than enough before and now have enough miniature scotch bottles, lip gloss and toy cars to stuff 2 more stockings. I guess I’ll be having scotch for breakfast, can’t let it go to waste.

  • Alicia Kiner

    I have the EXACT same Cabbage Patch Kid story. Complete with her hiding under my parents’ bed and all. What is that? Did they all get together and plan it or what? lol The next year, my dad thought it would be great to send us on a scavenger hunt to find all our presents. We were not amused. But looking back, because there were 4 kids then, and money was tight, that was probably their way of making Christmas magical for us.

    • Carinn Jade

      It worked for me! So funny that we have the same story!

  • Heyhey

    You are all my kinds of people! After reading comments in that Scrooge article felt I was one of few who enjoys buying my kid toys!

  • pixie

    I know exactly how you feel in preparing, but having that last minute panic of not being ready! And I’m sitting here, drawing Christmas cards for my parents while I read mommy-ish because I thought I had plenty of time, I’d be ready, but then BOOM! It’s Christmas Eve. At least I have all my presents bought.
    And like your kids, my boyfriend has a February birthday. Because we went to Cuba this year, we agreed on not spending a lot on Christmas presents for each other. I had no idea what to get him until he lost his Oakley sunglasses in the ocean. Last night I took him to find new ones and we found pretty much an identical pair to the ones he lost and he said (without me even suggesting) that he’s completely fine with them being a Christmas and birthday present all in one because they’re kind of expensive. Plus I swear I’ve never seen anyone that happy over a pair of sunglasses, so I’m glad he loves them.