The 5 Best Places for Early Holiday Shopping

Hands offering a gift wrapped in brown paper and twine.

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It is possible to save money and still have a great vacation.

Important points

  • Buying early gives you the chance to shop for the perfect gift at the lowest possible price.
  • Gone are the days when your local mall was the only place to shop for the holidays.
  • Consider online retailers and check local businesses for going out of business or other sales.

There’s no reason to let inflation hold you back on your vacation plans. The trick is to reinvent how and where you shop. Instead of waiting until the last minute, why not start early to take your time and grab some bargains?

Here are five of the best places to shop ahead of the holidays.


Imagine gathering some of the most talented artisans from around the world in a single mall. That’s what it’s like to shop on Etsy. While it’s an overused term, there really is something for everyone. Whether the person you’re buying for has an interest in fishing, reading, jewelry, or dogs, finding a wide range of gift ideas is as easy as typing that interest into the Etsy search box.

Etsy shops are independently owned and most are mom and pop shops run by artists. They create clever, beautiful gifts not necessarily to get rich but to pursue their talents.

Shopping on Etsy does two things: it allows you to find unique items and it supports small businesses around the world.

2. eBay

There was a time when eBay was the go-to place for anyone looking for old Pyrex or vintage toys. And to be sure, the site still offers both. But slowly, eBay has transformed itself into a place where people can sell one-of-a-kind handmade items and retailers offer new products that are still in the box. It’s common to find these new products at a lower price than you might pay at a local retail store.

eBay sellers live and die by customer reviews, so many sellers go out of their way to make sure you’re happy. Receive an item that was damaged in transit? All you have to do is contact the seller for a replacement or refund. Do you have a question about something you want to buy? On eBay you can contact the seller directly and you will usually get a response within a few hours.

If you’re concerned about being scammed, it may help to know that eBay’s money-back guarantee covers almost all eBay transactions. If you don’t receive an item you ordered, or it’s faulty, damaged, or doesn’t match the listing, you’ll get your money back.

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3. A travel agency

What do you give someone who has everything? A trip to a place they’ve never been or loved so much they want to return. If you don’t want to do the planning online, visit a travel agency (yes, they still exist) to help you plan a trip.

You don’t have to plan anything elaborately, especially not if your budget doesn’t have room for it. A trip to a scenic area close to home is not only thoughtful, it’s also a way of thinking outside the box.

4. In the city

Shop around your hometown to shop for a gift for the recipient to experience. For example, if they are a budding artist, enroll them in a painting class. Buy zoo season tickets for the animal lover in your life or movie theater passes for the cinephiles. If you want to do something together, consider wine tasting, historic home tours, or hot air balloon rides.

It’s easy to forget how many fun things to do close to home.

5. Get out of business

An unfortunate result of the pandemic is that many companies, large and small, are going out of business. Keep an eye out for businesses in your area (or online) that are conducting distress sales to clear their remaining inventory. Maybe you can snag a great bargain, give someone a gift they weren’t expecting, and put some cash in your bank account for when times get tough.

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Of course, the holidays are about more than just giving, decorating, and overeating. It’s about spending time with the people you love and remembering what you’re most grateful for. If you are alone this holiday season, reach out to someone else who expects to be alone and create special memories together. When someone asks you to spend a holiday with them, remember that honoring them with your presence is a gift.

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