Monday, November 1, 2010

A Personal Best

Working in retail for a few years (particularly during the holiday season) taught me some important lessons. One of those was to get your holiday shopping done ASAP! Don't wait until the last minute, and for the love of all that is holy, don't go to the mall after halloween if you can help it!

Halloween has usually been my goal for having most of my shopping done. I rarely meet that goal. A much more realistic goal is to have the majority of it done before the end of November or the first week in December. And I generally have pretty good luck at doing this! But this year I started extra early and have shattered my own record for holiday shopping.

I had all my gifts (or ideas for gifts) picked out even before my birthday (mid-August). And while I was at it I went ahead and found extras. A few people had birthdays between August and December, and a few have birthdays within about six weeks of Christmas. And before I knew it I had all the major gift shopping done that I would need to do for almost a year! Almost everything was purchased or ordered, received, and wrapped before the end of September. I can count on one hand the number of things I had to get after that time, and they were done very quickly.

The one disclaimer to this is time-sensitive gifts. I won't reveal too much, but I will use the example of candy for the stocking. Obviously this hasn't been stockpiled and will be purchased closer to Christmas day. However, this does not require any trip that is additional to the normal errands that can't be avoided like buying groceries!

How in the heck did I do it? And did I spend a fortune on this little "project"? Well, here are my helpful hints.
  • Keep a running list of people you need to shop for and things they mention or that you see. (This is a good year-round habit to start)
  • Pick a budget and stick with it. You won't have to pay more than you're comfortable spending simply because you're in a time crunch.
  • Shop around. You can often find better deals, coupons, etc. for the same thing from different places.
  • Take advantage of where you are. If you see something you want to get and you can, snatch it up then and there. It saves "special" trips later.
  • Combine gift orders with "regular" stuff. It was very easy for me to slip a book that's a gift in with other books I was ordering for CPE. This also helps save on shipping!
  • Do your homework and buy something that is meaningful to the recipient.
  • Always ask for a box and take advantage of store gift-wrapping. If you're going to have to stack your gifts for a while, ask them to leave off the ribbon so you can add it later. That way it won't get smushed or yucky!
  • Wrap and tag things as you get them. It makes them easier to hide/conceal and it's one less thing to do later. Put a little sticky note with the gift contents in case you have multiple gifts for the same person. And if you're buying for multiple holidays at once and aren't sure which gift will be for which holiday, use bags. They're easier to change!
I probably spent less than normal doing it this way, because I had time to reflect on making one or two purchases at a time and I wasn't doing lots of impulse buying. I could also consolidate orders for multiple people from the same place and save on shipping. And it wasn't quite as much money being spent at once, so it wasn't a huge shock to our bank account!

Stay tuned as I share some of my favorite gift ideas and places to shop over the next several weeks.

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