You don’t have to be an economist to know what retailers are going to do when they know you have to have something before December 25. Shopping with an absolutely-positively-must-have-it deadline puts you at a distinct disadvantage. Of course, retailers are going to charge the highest possible price. If you choose to observe that December 25 deadline, you give them the power to do that.
If you want to save money, do as much of your Christmas shopping as possible on December 26 or shortly thereafter.* It’s something of a tradition at our house to head out to the uppity import shop and fancy grocery store and buy things that were outrageously priced just a day earlier for 50(or more)% off. When the shopping season starts on December 26, you’ve got the advantage.
We always find lots of holiday foods at great prices. We enjoy it just as much the week after Christmas as we would have enjoyed it the week before — and a good-sized number of dollars stays in our bank account instead of going to the merchant’s.
We did this with toys and games that we bought for the kids’ presents when the kids were younger. You think they even noticed that a special gift came a day or two later? Hardly. Just buy the thing at the much lower post-Christmas price, slip it under the tree, and say, “Oh, look there’s one more thing under the tree that you didn’t see.” There is some chance you might not get the exact thing you want (and it’s this fear that retailers are counting on to make you buy the thing at the extra-high full price before December 25), but you can usually find something good and keep the savings.
Doing as much of your Christmas shopping as possible starting on December 26 works especially well for decorations, wrapping paper, candy, and similar items. And it works online too. I just got some high-quality scented candles that we will use next year, for 50% less than I would have paid last week.
Of course, what’s best for the spirit of Christmas (and your bank account) is not to make Christmas a consumption frenzy. The best Christmas purchases are the ingredients you need for special Christmas cookies and dinners that you prepare yourself in your own kitchen — and these things are often on sale at good prices before Christmas.
*Remember, Christmas season actually lasts until Twelfth Night.