It’s that time of the year. Even before Thanksgiving stores were piping in Christmas tunes and setting out wreaths, ornaments, and “Perfect Stocking Stuffer” signs. Some may groan. I am giddy.
I freaking love Christmas and I love Christmas shopping. I really enjoy shopping anyway (check out my fashion blog!) and I love scoring great deals. I find it really exciting to enter a store with a few gift ideas in mind and $10 in my hand and try to find the best gift I can for that little budget. I love brainstorming gift ideas for friends and family, holiday parties, wrapping gifts, egg nog, Christmas cookies, and caroling.
So how can you get some of this Christmas cheer while braving the shopping malls?
Ha! December 2nd and I say start early. I actually started Christmas shopping in early November so I am almost done. But for many people December 2nd is early for Christmas shopping. But planning to get gifts over 8 weeks rather than 3 weeks can really cut down on the stress. It can take some time to brainstorm and come up with a great gift idea and you don’t want to have to get all those gifts in one mall shopping trip. Plus, the more you plan ahead the more you can gather your coupons and wait for a sale to get the best price.
Make a List
I make a Google document with all the people I need to buy gifts for, including my budget and how much I estimate to spend on each person. Then I make a list of ideas for gifts that each recipient would like that fit within the budget. The good thing about the Google doc is that I can access it on my smart phone while I am out and about so if I walk by a window display at a store that gives me a gift idea, I can write it down or take a picture of it to remind me of the idea later. Writing down my ideas helps me a lot because otherwise I forget them and I get stumped all over again leading to purchases of scarves for everyone.
Check it Twice
In addition to keeping a list of gift ideas, I keep a list of what I have already purchased for people. This list helps avoid over spending and over gifting. I found a book that would be perfect for my sister and was in the process of buying it online when I remembered to check my list and realized that I am done with shopping for my sister. If I buy her another thing then I have to get her fiance another gift too which leads to a busted budget. Yes, she would love that book. So, I can email my other family members to suggest it as a gift or I can write it down as a gift idea for her birthday.
Get Your Coupons Ready
When you know what you are going to shop for, look for coupons for stores that sell that item and keep an eye out for great department store coupons. If sweaters are on your list there are a million stores that you can choose from but why not start at Macy’s clearance rack and use a 20% off coupon from the paper? Just this week I received a coupon in the mail from JCPenney for $10 off a $10 purchase. That’s $10 free to shop with! Keep your eyes peeled for those great deals and bargain hunt!
Avoid Malls on Saturday Afternoons in December
If you can help it, avoid the malls entirely on the weekend. There’s nothing jolly about making eight laps around the parking lot to find a spot and after you finally find the best gift you have to get in line behind 15 other people. If you can swing it, make quick and targeted trips to the mall on your lunch break. Just last week I knew that Ann Taylor Loft was having a big sale so I went on my lunch break to snag a sweater for my Mom. That way I got in and out and only bought what I went there for. Additionally, there are many other stores that are not part of the mall that will be less crowded on weekends. Weeknights are also good for shopping during the first two weeks of December. The last week before Christmas you will find most stores packed so keep that in mind and if you must brave the crowds, pack a snack and leave plenty of time.
Smiling at people while you are out and about can really help keep you sane and spread some cheer. Remember, you are out shopping for gifts that your loved ones will enjoy. When you stress and buy something you can’t afford just to check them off the list, you lose some of that joy. When you are stuck in a long checkout line or a crowded parking lot, it helps to remember why you are there and smile. It will help calm you and others around you.
When In Doubt, Don’t
If you cannot afford gifts for everyone on your list or you are beating yourself up for not getting that Xbox One that someone has been asking you for because it’s expensive remember, you are not a failure, you are just on a budget. If you cannot afford something, don’t buy it. Look for homemade gifts (Pinterest has great ideas) or think of another, cheaper, better gift idea. Think of what that person loves and what is important to them. What are their hobbies? What do they get excited about? There are so many opportunities to be thoughtful that do not require a lot of money. Even baking someone some banana bread or making fudge is a great gift.
Do you like Christmas shopping? How do you stay sane and happy while shopping for gifts?