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Holiday Shopping Secrets From Etsy Insiders

Oct 23, 2019

by Bobbie Gossage handmade and vintage goods

Bring on the merry vibes! The most wonderful time of the year is drawing near, but between the stream of celebratory shindigs and festive to-do’s (bake pie, hang wreath, buy gifts!) sometimes the most wonderful time can also feel like the busiest. Never fear: To help simplify the holiday hustle and bustle, we’ve compiled a handy month-by-month shopping timeline, chock full of expert tips and tricks for finding the best of the season on Etsy, from cheerful decorations to oh-so-perfect presents for even the most hard to please friends and family. 

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“On Etsy, you can find unique and thoughtful gifts for everyone on your list, plus one-of-a-kind trimmings guaranteed to make your home stand out,” says Etsy Trend Expert Dayna Isom Johnson. “There are more than 60 million items to choose from made by makers around the globe, so with just a little bit of basic planning and a few simple search suggestions you’re sure to find just the right thing.” Whether you’re counting down the days until you deck the halls or just want to get a jumpstart on gift shopping, read on for the inside scoop on everything you need to make the most of the holidays, and rest easy knowing you’re prepared.

Personalized green dinosaur tree ornament
SHOP: Personalized dinosaur ornament from Miss Shelly Designs, from $24


Holiday decor

With fall in full swing and Thanksgiving just around the corner, now is the perfect time to start dreaming about decorating your space for the holidays. Thanks to versatile staples you can use throughout the season—think modern wreaths, playful doormats, and entertaining essentials like multi-use centerpieces and durable table linens—establishing a decor foundation that effortlessly transitions from autumn to holiday is a breeze. 

Trio of mini personalized mudcloth stockings
SHOP: Personalized mudcloth stockings from Habitation Boheme, similar from $49

Come December, be prepared to dial up the festive feeling by pairing throwback vintage holiday collectibles (putz houses, anyone?) with handmade stockings and tree skirts, and pet-approved advent calendars. This is also a great time to pre-order any personalized milestone ornaments you’ve been eyeing to commemorate a recent wedding, new baby, or first house. Have a specific vibe in mind? “No matter what your personal style is, you can find holiday decor to match it,” says Etsy’s senior holiday merchandiser, Emi Yoshii.

Tip: Try adding terms like “classic”, “modern”, “alternative”, “colorful”, “minimalist”, “boho”, “farmhouse”, or “Scandinavian” to your search to find holiday decor that matches your preferred aesthetic. 

Fine jewelry

When it comes to gifts that truly dazzle, it’s hard to beat a showstopping piece of jewelry. Whether you’re in the market for an eye-catching statement necklace, an heirloom-quality birthstone bracelet, or even a one-of-a-kind engagement ring, October is a smart time to start your search for fine jewelry, since these accessories are often made to order or custom designed. “Many jewelry designers are open to working directly with buyers to help bring their unique vision to life,” says Emi. “Don’t hesitate to reach out to a seller to discuss what you’re looking for, share your timeline and budget, and see what’s possible.”

Not sure where to dive in? “Colored gems and iridescent stones like opals and moonstones are trendy alternatives to diamonds,” says Emi. (If you do have a specific style in mind, you can filter your search results by stone, metal, and cut, as well as style and price.) And don’t forget presentation! From personalized wooden jewelry chests to modern, geometric ring boxes, you’ll find the just-right keepsake to house that special piece. 


Custom and made-to-order gifts

One of the best parts of shopping on Etsy? Many sellers are willing to create custom items just for you—or rather, just for the lucky recipient of your ultra-personalized present. This year, some of our favorite custom creations include recipe plates (which let you preserve a cherished recipe on a pretty ceramic platter, handwriting and all), name jewelry (featuring one of 2019’s most popular picks: multi-name necklaces), star charts (beautiful constellation maps that immortalize the night sky on a special day), and frame-worthy family, pet, and house portraits. Since these made-to-order gems can take a bit more time to whip up, beginning your search in November is a good idea.

Custom recipe dish from Prairie Hills Pottery
SHOP: Custom recipe dish from Prairie Hills Pottery, from $65
Photo by Rob Howard
Custom house portrait from Jen Russell-Smith Illustration
SHOP: Custom house portrait from Jen Russell-Smith Illustration, from $142

Good news for the slightly-less-early birds: If you’re shopping later in the month (or even into December!) Etsy offers a treasure trove of lightly personalized presents that still feel unique to your giftee, but don’t require extra time for customization. Thoughtful options include birthstone or initial jewelry, zodiac-themed tokens, and city- or state-specific pieces that let the receiver show off their hometown pride. For more specific ideas, try describing your intended recipient in your search (see: gifts for mom, gifts for boyfriend, or gifts for pets), then filter your results by “customizable”.

Tip: Want to send a gift directly to your recipient? Filter your search results to display items that offer gift wrap and ship away! 

Holiday fashion 

“The holidays are filled with festive events that call for just the right look,” says Dayna—so before your December social calendar fills up, make sure your closet is stocked for the occasion(s). From over-the-top Christmas sweaters (including elaborately patterned vintage pullovers from the ‘80s and ‘90s, plus modern sweatshirts adorned with custom family crests), to matching pajama sets perfect for holiday cards or Instagram, cozy choices abound. 

Custom family sweatshirts from Customize Fast
SHOP: Custom family sweatshirts from Customize Fast, from $28
Photo by Rob Howard

For fancier soirees, consider cocktail dresses cut from luxe fabrics such as velvet and satin and shimmering accessories like crystal-studded hair pins and oversized gemstone earrings, says Etsy’s senior fashion merchandiser, Jess Church. “For New Year’s Eve, it’s all about vintage-inspired glitz and glamour,” she adds. We’re talking sequin sheaths, fringe details, and elegant outerwear you’ll be thrilled to be wearing long after the clock strikes midnight. “Don’t be afraid to have fun with it!”

Tip: Looking to save on meaningful items? When searching on Etsy, you can filter your results to see items on sale or with free shipping. Many Etsy sellers will also be running sales during Cyber Week in November, so be sure to keep an eye out.


Local and fast-shipping gifts

A stained-glass ring holder for your just-engaged bestie. A celestial-inspired necklace for your space-loving aunt. Scarves shaped like swans for your bird-watching nephews. Custom gifts are great to be sure, but luckily for us dawdlers, Etsy is also brimming with one-of-a-kind premade presents guaranteed to feel just as special—and to save the day as the holidays draw near, thanks to local makers and quick shipping times. One of our fave feel-good trends this season? Greener gifts, which shine a spotlight on upcycled, vintage, and biodegradable items that prioritize the planet (see: a reusable travel mug for your eco-conscious teacher). And for more sure-fire finds, be sure to check out Etsy’s curated holiday gift guides

Opal celestial necklace from Liesel Love
SHOP: Opal celestial necklace from Liesel Love, $330
Photo by Rob Howard

Tip: Need a gift delivered fast? You can filter your search results to find items ready to ship in as little as one business day. You can also filter by shop location to find Etsy sellers in your area, which may help reduce shipping times. (It’s also a great way to support local artists!)

Stocking stuffers

What would the holidays be without a stocking full of pint-sized surprises? This year, give the gift of self-care, and treat your loved ones to a mini-spa day with an assortment of bath and beauty items. “More than ever, shoppers are interested in items that promote relaxation,” says Dayna. “On Etsy, there are thousands of items to discover for the wellness enthusiast on your list, from personalized meditation pillows to DIY essential oil kits—everything they need to keep their zen in check.” 

Personalized cufflinks from Kingsley Leather
SHOP: Personalized cufflinks from Kingsley Leather, from $68

Other unexpectedly delightful stocking stuffers include socks featuring cheeky phrases or playful patterns, small leather goods like passport cases, luggage tags, and cable organizers, plus plenty of goodies for the smaller members of your crew: kids toys such as wooden name puzzle and name crayons, and of course treats for the pets. “A lot of these items can be personalized to make them even more special,” notes Emi.

Printable cards, gifts, and decor

For the inevitable last-minute names on your list, sellers are at-the-ready with a slew of creative solutions. “This is where Etsy can really come to the rescue,” Emi says. Whether you need a cheerful greeting card or set of stylish place cards for a dinner to remember, save time and money with a budget-friendly printable option. You can even purchase a downloadable piece of wall art, print it at home, and frame it for a quick foolproof gift in a pinch. Last but not least, Etsy gift cards, which you can email directly to your recipient or print for in-person delivery, are always a holiday hit. 

Photographs by Kate Mathis unless otherwise noted. 

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