Shop Now and Enjoy the Holidays Later
by: Brandie Younce
Think about how holiday shopping went for you last year. Did you rush at the last minute to please everyone but yourself? Were you stressed out so much that all the egg nog in the world couldn’t make you jolly? How out-of-control were your credit card bills? If you want to actually enjoy the holidays this year and keep your budget in check along the way, channel Santa and get those elves working now!
Last year my boss told me he hated me after I asked if I could have the box his cigars came in. Why? It’s the perfect size to ship the Christmas gifts I’m sending to a friend overseas, I told him. That was a good two months before Christmas. For the last few years I’ve had all or most of my Christmas shopping taken care of by Thanksgiving. All year, here and there, I think about the people I’m buying gifts for. I make a list and check it way more than twice. By the time December arrives, all that’s left are final touches.
So unless last minute stress is your high, here are some things to consider if you are so inclined to be more organized, save money, breath easy, and annoy your boss this holiday season:
- Make your gift list now and think about how much you want to spend on each person and what to get them. Have they “wished” for something in passing conversation? What is their favorite restaurant or entertainment spot? Maybe you have something appropriate to re-gift. Sort it all out now and make a plan of action.
- Make notes and shopping reminders in your planner to keep you on schedule and in line. Allow for some general flexibility from your gift list and budget but don’t get too carried away in the store. Stick close to your plans and thank yourself later!
- Shop in increments. Spread your in-store and online shopping out over a couple months so you’re not using your money all at once. And reserve cash for some of these purchases so you’re not relying solely on your credit cards.
- Shop where the coupons take you, and group trips based on a store’s location in relation to others you need to hit or where you’ll be on any given day.
- Consider local boutiques and local goods, which is a nice touch for both out-of-town and local friends and family. If you fancy doing all your shopping in one of these places you’ll not only save time and gas but you’ll also boost the local economy.
- Look for light items as gifts that require shipping and consider which carrier is best for what you’re sending. What are the time and cost options? What can be shipped overseas and will the recipient have to pay a duty? The “Keep It Simple, Stupid” rule applies here: if you aren’t sure about something, stick with what you know or your friend in Italy will have to pay $40 to accept that iPod you so generously bought them (I learned that lesson from someone else, I swear!). And send it ASAP to avoid those long lines. I say there’s nothing wrong with getting an early present. Plus, the earlier you send it, the slower and cheaper you send it.
- Wrap early! Look for boxes and gift bags now. Do you have anything to reuse from last year? Get it all ready.
- If gift cards are your thing, use sites like www.eBay.com for discounted cards. And sites like www.PlasticJungle.com and www.GiftCardGranny.com let you buy gift cards for up to 50% off and sell the ones you don’t want for up to 92% face value.
- Give gifts to yourself along the way! If you like shopping online, use sites like www.MyPoints.com to earn points toward gift cards for yourself. And remember to check www.SkyMilesShopping.com to see if the merchant you want to use will earn you miles. I also encourage everyone to check out www.iGive.com, where hundreds of companies donate a percentage of each purchase to your favorite charity. Personally, along with my top secret list of user names and passwords, I also note if each site offers points, miles and/or donations so I can decide which I want to use for that purchase.
- Finally, make notes for next year. What worked? What didn’t? Where did you hide stuff for next year? Make a note to your future self in your planner, Smart Phone, Outlook Tasks, whatever.
If you employ even a few of these practices now, you’ll be able to eat your Thanksgiving dinner smugly knowing your work is just about done. And so what if your boss hates you? You know secretly he’s actually impressed. And remember the sentiment is that Santa has to take care of himself before he can take care of the elves. So come December, you can help out those in need. And you’ll still have time to sit back and enjoy the high-quality egg nog you bought with all the money you saved.