I buy stocking fillers and clothes for my dc throughout the year and put away, I buy for other children and adults throughout the year. Then once September is here, I start looking at main presents for my dc. When they were younger, it was easier as there wasn't really anything they wanted. Now, I tend to ask for ideas (they know I buy presents and we stick with FC doing the stockings..... ) and then I look around to find the best deals.
We buy my stepsons their toys fairly late but I buy for their stockings early as I put in a lot of practical bits like new flannels, bubble bath etc. I also buy a fair bit from the bargains threads. Last year they both got Star Wars dressing gowns that cost £5.
It's a tradition in my family to have table gifts. Last year it cost me £3-4 per person and there were 10 of us. This year I found something perfect for £1 each. That makes a massive difference.
Mumsnet is amazing for ideas. A few of us bought our DHs bags made from car tyres one year and my DH declared it his favourite ever present. I would NEVER have thought of putting that into Google!
I tend to have a list of people I need to buy for and I jot down ideas when I'm inspired. You don't have to buy everything early, but you can aim to get as much as you reasonably can.
Examples I get stocking fillers for the children. It's stuff like pjs, bubble bath, small toys and books. Stuff they cant really change their minds about. I get main presents nearer the time.
I also get the presents for the people you buy for that aren't close family eg In getting Dd's nursery teacher a scarf which is currently half price, the children's godfather is getting a cookery book or earphones - last year it was a travel mug.
Oh and I focus on presents for the children, but we do stockings for each other. I buy him things like socks, DVDs, DIY tools, torch, memory stick.
Just save some money each month. That way you're spreading the cost but you can buy all the presents closer to christmas. That's what I do, I have a separate christmas savings account and i put money away each month and then buy all my presents beginning of December.
I'm always of people who do their Christmas Gift shopping mega early. But as my DC change their minds a gazillion times I don't buy their presents until late November (DS birthday is December) so we give him a couple of more ££ for his birthday then smaller ones for Christmas (so he gets a bigger pile of presents)
I do as much as my food/wrapping/decorations in advance. You could ask people what they want then buy them something (but don't tell them exactly) then hopefully they won't buy the same?
WRT to the expense- can you save in a seperate account, buy as much as you can online then pay with a credit card (to protect your purchases) then you'll have the money to pay it off?
I need to spead the cost and stress of Christmas shopping, however I'm nervous people will either buy the things I have bought them themselves between now and Christmas or that the children will change what they want and won't get the presents they want on Christmas Day. Am I over thinking it? Has this happened to anyone who started early?