There are a few ways to make Christmas shopping a little easier on yourself and your pocket book. I don’t know what kind of shopper you are but I have gone through different stages of shopping for gifts over the years. When you are young you tend to start out waiting until the last minute and fighting all the crowds without a clue of what you are buying and sometimes you even forget who you have to buy for! Then you start to smarten up and do some of your shopping in advance to avoid the crowds. You may even carry a list of the people you need to shop for and then end up wandering aimlessly around without a clue as to what to get them. I know there are the expert shoppers too, those who do everything right. I am not talking to you and you know who you are. In fact, why are you even reading this? You should be writing it. But anyway, I’m writing this and I will give you a few tips on an easier and better way to shop this Christmas.
First of all you need a list, a list which consists of not only the names of the people you are buying for but also the amount you are planning on spending for each person. Before you can do this you need to sit down and decide exactly how much you are going to spend on shopping this year. Unless you are wealthy and have unlimited funds (in which case I say again, why are you even reading this?). Once you decide your budget then put a figure next to each person’s name, make sure you add enough for taxes or you will be short.
Next thing you need to do is either ask that person what they would like for Christmas, having them give you several options to choose from. If this is not something you want to do then think of things in that price range that the person would like. Write them all down next to the person’s name so that when you get to the store you will have a plan of action. This will save time and save you from the stress that comes with wandering around trying to think of something to buy. Do not think you will remember good gift ideas without writing them down. Once you get into the chaos of the store, thinking goes out the window. If you are planning on buying clothes for the person, make sure you find out and write down accurate sizes before you ever get started shopping.
Once you have this list made up there are other suggestions I will offer up. Look online first and find out who has the best price. It may be that you can even order it online and avoid going out to the stores. If you do not have a computer then this will not work for you unless you go to the public library and access theirs. In any event, even if you just look at flyers or call ahead to the stores do your best to find the best prices on the things you have on your list. This saves time, gasoline, and saves you from a lot of extra stress.
The next thing I will suggest, something that I personally have found very helpful, is to use strictly cash when Christmas shopping. I add up everything and get cash which I put into an envelope marked Christmas shopping. The reason for this is very practical. Credit cards are much easier to whip out and use, but we also tend to spend more because it is not coming straight out of our bank account. Even if you are using a debit card you tend to spend more because it is, after all, just a piece of plastic. If you stick strictly to your list and the cash you have at hand you will stay in budget. This also saves you all the interest you would be paying to those credit cards in the months and/or years ahead. Another great reason to use cash is for returns. A lot of times stores will only return the cost of the item to your credit or debit card, especially if you have just made the purchase. This means you have money floating around that you do not have access to for days or even sometimes up to a week. With cash, however, they immediately refund your money so that you have it to use for whatever gift you are getting instead. Watch for store’s returns policies. Some do not allow returns at all!
If it is possible, try to pick one central store to get most of your gifts. Oftentimes if a store has great prices for one gift, they will have good prices on the others as well. It is well worth paying a few extra cents to save on gas, travel time, and wear and tear on your patience. After all, you do not want to spend all your shopping time waiting in line or stuck in traffic. Shopping at a mall is usually a good idea for that reason. If you can hit two or three stores in a row and get the majority of your shopping done without having to travel, you will not only feel better physically but you will really feel like you have accomplished something great.
Spread out your shopping. There is no need to get all your shopping done in one day. If you can spread out your shopping to a few months before Christmas it will not feel like such a burden on your patience and your pocketbook. Think about it. A few gifts a month are a lot more reasonable to pay for than a truckload all in December. You can even shop all year long if you have a place to store the gifts and you are sure the people you are buying for will still need and/or appreciate them even after all those months. After Christmas sales are a great way to get awesome deals if that is something you think would work for your family. If not, you can still start early and spread the sticker shock out a bit. After Christmas sales are also a great time to pick up bows, ribbons, Christmas cards, and gift wrap for cents on the dollar. Those never go bad and if you have a place to store them you will always have supplies on hand.
It is also a good idea to get started early with your shopping if the gifts you are looking for are popular. Many toys and electronics go into backorder around the holiday season. You do not want to go to a dozen stores searching for that gift that you could have easily picked up a month ago. Any time you have a very specific gift in mind and you see it at a decent price, go ahead and pick it up. I guarantee it will save you a lot of stress in the long run and if you see it on sale later you can always take the more expensive one back.
I have found that when you have a list, with names, with ideas, with exactly that much cash, especially if you have done your homework and found the best places to shop, things go oh so much better. You may even find yourself singing along with those wonderful old Christmas Carols at the mall as you go about your well planned shopping this season! You can hopefully make someone really happy with the gift you purchased for them this year because you went in on a mission just for them. Who knows, it could be the best Christmas ever.
About the Author: This guest post is contributed by Debra Johnson, blogger and editor of http://www.liveinnanny.com/. She welcomes your comments at her email Id: – jdebra84 @ gmail.com.
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