Once again it’s that time of the year where those of us who aren’t prepared break out into a cold sweat. Christmas and the requisite shopping strikes fear into the hearts of many. Add kids to the equation – whether you’re shopping for them or planning to take them along for the shopping nightmare – and you’re looking at a full-blown breakdown. That is, if you let it get to you and don’t prepare.
Holiday shopping doesn’t have to be a horrific and traumatic experience. By following a few simple tips, you can get through it and, perhaps, enjoy it as well. Following are the Top 10 Tips For Stress-Free Christmas Shopping
1) Make a budget and stick to it – Don’t do anything until you check your finances. Be realistic about the amount of gifts that you have to buy and how much you can realistically spend on presents. Get all of your ducks in a row before you head out shopping so that when you’re actually in the stores looking at items, you won’t be tempted to spend money that you don’t have, or purchase items that will bankrupt you before December 25th.
2) Make a list, check it twice – In keeping with point #1, this is the second most important point to remember when planning your holiday shopping excursions. Not having a list will inevitably result in a spending free-for-all that will not only cause you great financial stress later on, but will often result in poor gift choices that will leave both the purchaser and the recipient unhappy. Avoid this situation by knowing in advance what you’re buying for each family member and friend.Whether it’s a virtual list on your iPad or a good old-fashioned paper list, stick to it.
3) Shop during off hours – If there’s one good thing about the craziness of the season, it’s the fact that many stores go on a “Holiday Hours” schedule. This means that a lot of malls and stores will open earlier than usual and will stay open later than they normally would during the off-seasons. Take advantage of what the stores have to offer while you can. Go shopping early in the morning or late at night. Better yet, if you’re a particularly intrepid sort, make good use of the 24-hour shopping and extended hours at malls/stores and buy your presents at 5:00am. I guarantee there will be no line-up at the checkout and you won’t have to fight that crazy-looking mother for the last Transformer or Power Ranger toy on the shelf.
4) Think outside the (gift) box – We all get into a rut and Christmas seems to bring out this reality more than any other time of the year. The good news is that there’s always time for change. If socks and ties are your usual gifts for dad, why not mix it up this year? Give him a gift that he would never expect from you and watch his surprise on Christmas morning. If your child is stuck on getting the latest Barbie in her holiday finest, why don’t you consider giving her a more unique doll from a boutique toy shop? We often don’t give our kids credit for who they are and their reactions to the unexpected just may be one of the season’s pleasant surprises.
5) Make homemade gifts – Everyone loves a gift from the heart. After all, it’s not about the money, its that thought that counts. In the hustle and bustle of the season, it’s easy to forget this fact. Some homemade baked goods, a craft made with love or a similar gift will show how you really feel about the recipient and will go a long way in spreading the holiday cheer. On a related note, this is a great time to teach your children the fact that it’s all about the intention and not the cash. Encourage them to do the same by making a hand-made item for their friends, teachers or family members. Not only will you save money but you’ll be closer to the true spirit of the season as well.
6) Shop alone – As enticing as it may be, don’t get pulled into group shopping trips or trips to the mall with your friends. During this time of the year in particular, the malls and stores are more distracting than ever and as a result, your shopping time will take longer – guaranteed. Let’s also not mention the temptation to stop for holiday cocktails with your friends and the peer pressure that will support your need for that must-have cashmere scarf or new pair of shoes. Similarly, you’re guaranteed a meltdown if you take your kids with you and have to tell them that they will not be getting any of those nice, shiny toys that are on display, or the various goodies and treats that are available at every store during this time of the year. Go shopping alone with your list in hand, your budget in mind and a clear plan of attack and you’ll be less likely to veer off the beaten shopping path.
7) Avoid the big malls – The excitement of the season is no better exemplified than in the shopping malls in the weeks before Christmas. Oh, those marketers are so smart, aren’t they? With holiday music blaring, cinnamon and clove smells pumped into the toy section of the stores and festive decor everywhere you look, it’s easy to become enticed. When this happens, all plans for fiscal restraint and focused shopping go out the window. Avoid this from happening by going go to smaller stores, where you’ll be able to not only buy a more unique gift for your loved ones, but will avoid the craziness of the crowds as well.
8) Wear comfortable shoes and clothes – This is really, really important. Like anything, you have to make sure that you’re prepared for all eventualities – including sore feet. Shopping for the day can be exhausting, and wearing layers of heavy winter clothes don’t help either. Before you go out on your shopping expedition, dress in a fashion – from head to toe - that won’t hinder your success.
9) Research and shop online if possible – The great thing about living in this digital age is that we can use our digital access to make life easier for us. “Help” your child with his letter to Santa and find out at the same time what he’d like to see under the tree on December 25th. Then go online, research pricing, location and shipping of the toy(s) and click “buy this item.” Done. It couldn’t be simpler.
10) Divide and conquer – If you have a partner, close friend or relative who is agreeable, give them some gifts to buy from your list and take a load off. You don’t have to do it all. You’re only one person. Even Santa has elves to keep things under control. Engage others, make it a family (or friend) affair and spread the love. You’ll be glad that you did.
So as you can see, the holiday season can be one full of tidings of comfort and joy. And stress-free as well! Merry Christmas!
VIDEO: Tips For Stress-Free Christmas Shopping
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