Christmas shopping – done right, with a plan!

Braving the mall

Stepping into the mall you are instantly accosted by the sights and sounds that accompany your trip to the church of consumerism. But, today things are a little different! It seems busier than usual and there is different music playing, then you realize the Christmas shopping season is upon you. Now that we’re less than 1 week away, this has become even more amped up, almost to a point of frenzy.

Christmas, regardless of if you celebrate it, has become a highly commercial time of year for retailers. First of all, the Christmas holidays are all about gift giving which would normally be enough for the retailers, but there is an added perk for them. Around Black Friday most retail outlets start making a profit for the year. The average is that for the first 10-11 months the money that comes into a retail outlet does nothing more than cover the costs to keep the lights on. But after that magic day in November the gravy starts flowing. This becomes reason number 2 to really crank up the sales engine and bring that money home.

Over the years I’ve noticed that the holidays have gotten more and more commercialized. I think that it really hit me when I was in first year of college and looking forward to going to a Halloween party the following day. I was walking through the mall and I saw the Christmas decorations going up. It was October 30th!! You have to learn to survive the Christmas shopping season.

Do you know how to Christmas shop?

Actually, the secret here is pretty simple. Have a list!! When it comes to Christmas shopping its all about the prep work before you buy a single thing. You need to start with a couple things:

  •  The budget that you are looking to spend. 
  • List of people you’re getting gifts for.

With those two pieces of info in hand you figure out what would be a good gift for each person and how much you want to spend on them (pretty simple, right?). If you have a list of 20 people and a budget of $100 thats about 5$ per person which might not work. This lets you figure out what you’re spending, on whom and it essentially gives you some boundaries to work with. The limitations really allow you to not overspend and not get into debt.

What to do when you can’t create the list and stay on budget?

Unfortunately, this is a little individual so there are no hard and fast rules, but here are some ideas:

  • Make something for the person (yep! go get creative)   
  • Do something for the person (for a lot of people this is much more important than a trinket)

Staying within some kind of budget that works for you goes a long way to preventing paying for Christmas until June which too many people do. Having a list also has the added benefit that you won’t end up with decision fatigue in the mall which has a tendency to max out credit cards.

Once you have your list, what next?

This one is both easy and hard at the same time. Go shopping! I know I said the magic words for some people, but no matter how you do it (online or in-store) this part can be hard, stores make it really easy to impulse shop and get a lot of extra things that aren’t needed. Stick to your list. If you plan in advance and limit yourself to just the things on the list you might end up unscathed. This holds true for both online and offline shopping (though you might be late for online shopping at this point)

The holiday can be a wonderful time of year and it’s fun to both give and receive gifts but at the same time it’s also important not to go overboard and spend too much. I have a few small things left to get but my shopping is essentially done, are you done or do you leave things to the last minute?

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