Ah, the joys of summer. The smell of bar-be-que, inviting long green fairways, trips out of town – and Christmas gift shopping.

But, wait a minute – isn’t Christmas months away?
Maybe, on the calendar.

But, as far as shopping is concerned, it’s essentially a twelve month proposition. Especially now, when it’s warm and sidewalk sales and other similar opportunities abound.

The idea is this: Christmas shopping can be a truly stress-free experience… if it isn’t crammed into the period between Thanksgiving and the night before.

The secret is contained in the song Santa Claus Is Coming To Town. Remember, it goes like this: “he’s making a list, and checking it twice.”

So, that’s your assignment. Make a list and check it twice, or as many times as you need to in order to maximize the time you’re shopping during the rest of the year – and particularly summertime.

Some steps to take.

Pay attention whenever someone says “that’s cool, I’d really like one of those.” Text yourself a message on your iPhone, Blackberry or just plain cell phone. Put that item on your list for that person. If they’re not watching you could even take a photo of whatever it is as an added reminder.

If someone on your list reminisces about a favorite toy or book or other item from childhood, add a search for that item on eBay. You’d be surprised how many people let their computer mice help nibble down their Christmas shopping lists that way.

Gather sizes for people and store them on that same phone. Carry a little notebook if that’s more your style. Take note of home color schemes, favorite clothing styles, anything that will make it easier for you to acquire something for a particular person that’s personal, that goes with their lifestyle, that’s perhaps local to a favorite vacation spot or a more exotic locale.

Keep track of exactly what you’ve acquired, for whom, and its location in your home. It’s never fun to do post-Christmas housecleaning and come across that perfect present you’d found back in August for hard-to-buy-for Uncle Horace that you’d carefully stashed on the top shelf of the linen closet and totally forgotten about.

Don’t forget to look for wrapping paper or boxes for presents. Sidewalk sales are an excellent source for that kind of thing. Stores can have Christmas present problems too – they got the wrong paper, got the right paper too late, didn’t sell enough paper with last year’s designs, had more gift boxes than gifts – whatever, those problems can become your potential solutions.

Sidewalk sales are also an excellent source for containers for presents. Decorative baskets can hold a present for Christmas and then be used to hold the recipient’s bathroom guest towels the rest of the year. Unusual kitchen canisters can contain edible presents such as cookies or peppermint bark as a hostess gift and then be used by the recipient for dried pasta or other culinary storage thereafter.

Think “Art Fairs.”They’re a summertime Christmas shopper’s secret for gifts that are unique, personal, and often practical. Besides actual art created by artists, there are usually good craftspersons exhibiting their wares as well. Wooden toys, garden decorations, wind chimes, kitchen utensils – and, yes, interesting potential containers – are all potential finds at art fairs. Prices can be anywhere from reasonable to extravagant, depending on what you find. Plus, there’s the added benefit of supporting the local creative economy.

Another thought: flea markets and antique shows. If you’re thinking Christmas presents when you browse you can begin to see a number of possibilities. An old commercial sign could be an ideal present for a cottage owner friend. You might have to modify it a bit to make the sign more personal, but in the summer you have more time, and inclination, to do that. What about an antique can or bottle labeled with a friend or family member’s name. It’s amazing how many companies there were that used the family name as their brand. Another possibility could be an antique container of their favorite veggie or beverage. Get crafty. Sure, Martha says a personalized ornament will take just a couple of minutes and only require some imported durum flour, 15 shades of Cadmium Red and an MA in Art – but you can do it … or, wait a minute. Look where you’re reading this. Check out the thousands of possibilities and order some of them – now, before the last-minute rush.

These are just a few of our summertime Christmas shopping suggestions, designed to ease your holiday stress. We’d welcome your ideas that we could add to the list.

Written by Dianne Weller
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