by Lindsay Rose

For the past couple of years, I have become somewhat of a smug holiday shopper.

I start early, like September early, and when I find a good deal or have a good coupon, I buy the gift and tuck it away. Black Friday comes, when many people start their holiday shopping, and I’m typically finishing mine up. I watch as people frantically start looking for that hot holiday toy—the one that really could only be found in stores in October—a week before Christmas, and I chuckle to myself. I see holiday “sale” prices that are 15% higher than what I paid in early November. I watch the news stations cover traffic at the busy malls and I’m just glad it won’t be me sitting there.

But you know what? I kind of miss the hustle and bustle of shopping during the actual holidays. As I sit down on my couch to watch “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” for the 37th time, part of me wishes I needed to be out in the crowds…just a little bit. For me, shuffling through a busy mall or shopping center with my arms full of bags is kind of a tradition from my younger days when my holiday shopping didn’t start until school was out on break. Online shopping has robbed us of the joy of leaving the mall with our arms full of shopping bags. I’m not the only one who feels this way, right? And while the mall may be the last place in the world some people want to be, I get why some people love it.

To people who do everything early, shopping in December IS last-minute shopping. But let’s not forget about the REAL last-minute shoppers, the ones who go screeching out of their driveway on December 24 because they still have four more presents to get. That would be my dad. He doesn’t save all his shopping for the last minute, he just always feels like someone needs one more gift. With four children and a wife (and now, in-laws and grandchildren, too), he always wants the gift piles to be fairly even. I know, first-world problems. Part of me thinks he does this on purpose. The 5 pm run to the mall before it closes at 6 pm is just one of his holiday traditions…or an excuse to get away from the family for a little bit.

Whether you are an early-bird shopper, a prime-time shopper or a last-minute shopper, I hope you find joy in it. While I may feel a little smug when I already have the hot gift everyone is searching for, I have to admit, I kind of like the thrill of the chase. I like having one perfect gift that proves to be a little elusive. I understand that plugging through a busy mall may not be fun for everyone, but it is a tradition for many. That last-minute run to see what’s left in the stores? Also tradition (and sometimes poor planning).

But don’t think that we smug, early-bird shoppers are free from all holiday-related panic. Last year, two days before Christmas, I was tearing apart my house, looking for a gift that I knew I had bought a month and a half ago. I went through every hiding place I knew of twice, with no luck. I finally found the gift…wrapped and under the tree. See? At least you last-minute shoppers remember where you put all your gifts.