Christmas in September

So a few years ago I had the worst Christmas shopping season of my life. I couldn’t find anything I wanted to get. I ended up spending thousands of dollars because I felt desperate and panicked to just get anything. And the day before Christmas Eve, I found out we would be expected to buy gifts for everyone at a 30-person family party the next night, so I spent the Christmas Eve-Eve scrambling around to put something together for every single one of the people that would be there. It was hellish.

That year I vowed to not allow myself to be put in such a situation again. The next year I went to the extreme and decided I would be doing everything for Christmas shopping in September. This required a little planning, a nicely crafted story about Santa Claus needing wish lists early due to high demand of some toys, and a committed plan from my husband on just what family parties we will be going to and what family parties we’d be avoiding. Since then, I’ve done this year-in and year-out – it was just that successful.

Although there are a few rules I follow, or it doesn’t work:

Rule #1

I don’t give a fuck what family outside of my house wants

For the majority of our family that could be considered “not immediate,” I just stopped giving a fuck what any of them wants. My mom always gives me a laundry list of stuff she wants, and stuff I’ve given her in the past that she didn’t like too. As a result, I get her the same gift I get everyone else, and a little diddy from Bath and Body Works (pay back for the bitching she did to me about the B&BW stuff I got her a few years ago). I just don’t give a fuck. Everyone outside of my own home has just about everything they could need anyway, and there are some things I just think are too personal to buy for others anyway (shirts, books, etc.), so I make a gift basket for all of them.

This year I did homemade goods inside a nice gift basket. I canned pickles, sun-dried tomatoes, and bark candy. I put together a do-it-yourself “grow herbs for your tea” kit. Then I wrapped them all in nice gift baskets decorated inside with rafia straw and artificial moss.

Anyone this gift basket stuff won’t work for (ahem, my father) gets a gift card. Those people all prefer to pick out their own stuff anyway.

Rule #2

At home I don’t tolerate that minds changing bull shit

We don’t usually have a problem with minds changing, probably because we don’t watch that much television so have limited exposure to the pre-Christmas commercials. And my husband gets what I give him irrespective of anything he wants. Regardless, there are some times when wishes are added to the list after the list has been “sent” (and September has passed), but I do not tolerate that bull shit.

I don’t mean to be a grinchy, heartless bastard. I just don’t believe in falling prey to the typical commercial ploy to get parents/spouses to spend-spend-spend around the holidays.

My strategy for dealing with last-minute mind changes or additions (they are really just additions) is actually a little convenient for me on account of all of our family birthdays falling between the end of December and the beginning of April. Typically the Christmas unwrap crazy-fest doesn’t bring up questions about requests not received, but when it does I usually mention that Santa may not have gotten it because it was a birthday present coming down the pipeline.

Rule #3

I plan like a boss

On September 1st I plan like a boss. I take out my hot pink, glitter notebook and gel pen of choice, and plan that shit out to the “t.” I first make a list of what the holidays will bring this year (family parties, plans, etc.). Then I make a list of who we have to buy gifts for, accordingly. Then I mark out who is getting a gift basket and figure out everything I need (and need to do) for it. Finally I make a list of where I need to go (online and in person) for everything and I get to it.

I don’t over-think a goddamned thing. When I start feeling bad for how unpersonalized my gifts are to extended family and friends, I remember that year my grandparents didn’t get the Pookies anything, and the heartbreak that followed; or the bitchfest my mom went on that time she didn’t like the scent of the fucking B&BW shower gel I got her. And when all else fails, I scan through the preparations involved in the gift baskets and remind myself that the work for those is probably way more than digging through the clearance bins for an ugly sweater that will probably get returned anyway.

So I am now done with Christmas shopping. It isn’t even the end of September yet, but I finished shopping today and got all the canning done as well this weekend. Now all that’s left is just a little bit of wrapping and packing it all into the closet until December. I even got the stocking stuffers done this year (thanks to the dollar sections at Target and Michaels), and I have to say they are pretty bad ass. I promise you faithful blog followers that if you follow my three rules, Christmas in September is a total win.

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  1. just keep swimming

    This is brilliant. We DO need to stop worrying about everyone else so much. It’s time for me to squash the people pleaser in me and just learn to focus on the kids and creating nice family memories. Thanks for this!

    1. Heather Christena Schmidt

      I am ALL ABOUT memories now. ALL ABOUT IT. Screw the rest!

  2. rich

    i have convinced myself that giftcards are a brilliant idea. it’s like this – i can give cash, but that’s cold. but you can use it for anything you want. but that’s still cold. and if you’re in money trouble, you’ll use the cash on something sensible and stupid, like bills.

    but a giftcard is different. it’s like, “here’s cash, but you must spend it at this one location.” and i used to think it was stupid, but now i’m sure it’s brilliant. like this – let’s say you know someone loves going to the movies, but they’re having money trouble. cash will go towards the money trouble (we hope) and then they’re out of a gift. but a giftcard to a movie theater means that they MUST give themselves a break and go to the damn movies.

    i like that.

    1. Heather Christena Schmidt

      I like giftcards too. More personal than cash, less taxing than a hand-picked gift.

  3. bigalittleamom

    That’s amazingly organized. So, the only people I buy gifts for are my kids and their teachers. So, I’m good. I did throw in gifts for the mail person last year, and I’m thinking of making some home-baked stuff for either the closest fire station or police station, but that will be it!!

    1. Heather Christena Schmidt

      That’s awesome! And I love home-baked stuff given as gifts … it’s so much more personal than some crap trinket 🙂


    Ahhh Christmas time. It is that wonderful time of year where we stress the hell out about every possible little thing. I love your plan and that you are already done. I am jealous though I will probably start shopping soon too and be done way before Christmas comes around. The only problem I anticipate is that my sister’s little ones grow so damn quick and already have so many amazing toys and games that it is hard to buy for them. Luckily homemade gifts are encouraged in my household. Love the gift baskets, btw! All of my friends back in California would get homemade peanut butter fudge, a family recipe that has been handed down. Each year before Christmas I would get the “So are you doing fudge this year?” questions. It just made me feel so good that they loved what they got even though it was only a little treat. 😀

    1. Heather Christena Schmidt

      Christmas time is the time where everyone stresses … and so many people COMPLAIN about what you got for them from said stress! UGH!

  5. boldbohemian

    Our family quit buying for each other years ago. It is limited to my husband, his son and his parents. If my nephew plans to spend time with us, then I buy for his family. For my dear friends I might get a little bobble and that is it! Good thing I like my friends better than family and only have a few close friends.

    1. Heather Christena Schmidt


  6. alienredqueen

    Dude, please don’t take this the wrong way, but I say FUCK those family members that are rude enough or selfish enough to demand certain gifts, expect gifts, or complain about gifts. And you hinted on it; the only people that matter are the children. I’d say get all the kids, nieces, nephews, etc, and fuck the rest. We are so poor right now, we get a few people and that is it. I couldn’t even send my own sister a birthday present this year! It is what it is…

    1. Heather Christena Schmidt

      I agree hahahaha… Poor Nick does not.

  7. Connie

    Every year, I start stocking up gifts in February. Buy one gift at a time as I find something just right. Anyone outside the smallest kids, my hubby, my son, and my daughter, only gets a card and “newsletter” update about general family goings-on. All those people pretty much have what they want/need anyway, so I’m not spending the money on them. Occasionally, if there is something I know someone is looking for that I know I can’t afford, I go to said store/website and get them a $20 gift card. And, like you, after September I’m not shopping for last-minute-planned parties and such. Fuck ’em if they don’t like it.

    1. Heather Christena Schmidt

      That’s a brilliant strategy (the February stack up)!!

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