Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Present Shopping- Stress Free!!

Whether you shop for Hanukkah, Christmas, or even Yule, shopping for a lot of presents can be pretty stressful. Every year you probably say to yourself “Next year I’m going to have it more together. I’m going to spend $x on Christmas a month” "or “I’m going to buy two presents a month, instead of stressing myself like this!” But if you’re like me you find yourself saying that every year, but every year Thanksgiving passes and you can count the presents you have ready on one hand, if you have any at all!

If your family gets paid every two weeks you might have just found yourself with an “extra” paycheck recently. If your bills are mostly caught up then this is your stress free shopping chance! Here’s my 5 step method:

Step 1: Take a sheet of paper, regular printer paper works fine! Fold it in half lengthwise, then fold those halves in half.  Do the same width wise. You’ll have 16 sections, on each side of the paper. 

Now in each section write write the name of ONE person you are shopping for. If you shop for a whole family enter the family name in a box. For close family that you may also be doing a stocking for, next to their first box write their name in a second box. If you know you’ll have to buy a gift for a gift exchange make a box for that too.

For example:


Dad Stocking


Blu Stocking

The Smith Family

You have space for 32 people! You can also use a few boxes for supplies, decorations needed, or even meals to use for holiday potlucks!

Step 2: In each person’s box write either what you want to buy them, and/or what you want to spend on them. If you don’t know how much something costs take a reasonable guess, or check out some online stores for price ideas. I find that some items may be over my guess, but some are below, and the expense I estimated is usually pretty accurate.

Such as:

Dad- Tool Box $25

Step 3: After you have all your people listed, ideas or budget for each one, and a clean mind of what you are buying go to the store! Take a pencil and try to go when you have PLENTY of time, and your payment strategy figured out. Paying cash? Go to the ATM first. Using your credit and paying later? Make sure you have the card. If you haven’t used the card in awhile call the company, make sure it is safe to use and verify that you will be using it. When working retail I once helped a lady who rarely used her card, when she tried to make two large purchases in a small time frame they froze her card! That definitely goes against the stress-free method. If you made your sheet well then you’ll have a pretty good idea of what you’re getting and how much you’ll be spending.

If you make all or most of your gifts this still works! Write down what you are making each person, or want to make, and the supplies you need. Then make your store trip a craft store.

BUT, here’s my trick, don’t go to just any store! Either select a store with a wide variety of various items, or the mall. You want one stop. I especially recommend outlet type stores. Tuesday Morning is my fav! For that $10 budget for a coworker you can get a vase with a $50 value. Or try a place like $5 Below. If you’re not familiar check their website to see if there is one near you. They are a dollar store where everything is $5 or less. Some of it is crappy dollar store stuff, and some of it has a high value and they got some kind of deal. Right now for $5 you can get a “Cozi” which is a generic Snuggie! I once saw a purse with the original $50 price tag still attached for $5! I’ve seen $20 head phones for $5.  Try to think of a store near you that has something for everyone, AND even small dinky items for stocking stuffers all in one place.  If you can’t find a super great store like Tuesday Morning or 5 Below, then just hit a Target, Kmart, or dare I say the W-Mart. (I can’t bring myself to say the name, I hate that place) If you are the type who gives cashmere sweaters, crystal wine stoppers, and fur coats then go to wherever you go to buy that stuff, cause I have NO idea.

Step 4: Now, you’re at the store, you have a sheet of ideas, you have a payment strategy, a few hours of time, and preferably no kids or hurried husband, go to town! Take your time and go down each aisle that has stuff for on your list. If at the mall go in stores that are suitable, and try to combine multiple gifts into one store. Skip the stores you don’t don’t have any gifts you need, and skip the ones that tend to be pricey and may or may not have something in your budget.  Skip looking at anything that isn’t a gift. This isn’t a time to compare prices on your household wish list, or to drool over the necklace you want.  If one store is pretty and fun to go in, but you doubt you’ll find a gift there, save it for another day!

Step 5: One more small part of the plan, every single item that gets put in your cart is accounted for. This is where the pencil comes in. When you select something write it down on your sheet as to who it is for, and the cost. When the person is done draw a very visible check mark over their square, but make sure you can still read what you’ve written. This serves so many purposes. You don’t overspend on anyone and you can stick to your set budget. You don’t accidentally buy someone more then the number of gifts you intended. You can see at a glance who is left to shop for. You know if people have the budget you set. Perhaps you want a set of siblings to get a pretty even value of gifts, but one is $10 under, you know you need to pick more for them. You’ll see and be able the visualize the stuffed stockings. If it’s full but well under budget then find small items or expensive chocolates. If it’s empty but under budget find some big things to finish it off. And if those reasons aren’t good enough, when you get home you know exactly what was purchased for who so you can wrap, check the list, and smack a gift label on it!

If no one sabotages your shopping then you can be DONE in a matter of a few easy hours! Why would I say someone may sabotage it? During my shopping spree I sent my Mom a picture message of a present, with my sister-in-laws name and a question mark as the message. She saw the item, instantly thought of my niece, and proceeded to give me the wrong size, AND it turns out my sister-in-law wouldn’t even like the things! I was talking to my mom today, and she says “So did you get those for B?”

“B?” I said “ Those are for F!” Which led to discovering she sabotaged me, and I went from 99.99% done, to having two more gifts to get instead of one! Since the store has an all sales are final policy it also slightly dented my budget. Otherwise using this method I spent about an hour and a half in one store. I bought gifts for over 6 people, plus 4 stockings. In the same trip, in a matter of moments, I could have gotten wrapping paper, ribbon, gift tags, last minute decorations, and even a snack if I had needed it! One benefit also of this is that you see the size of everything at once. If you are planning to travel over the holidays you can see in a glance if everything will fit in your car or not. If you need to fit 3 kids, plus luggage and gifts in a SUV or minivan then maybe two shopping carts full isn’t a good idea.

And one warning, if you buy your kid a super bouncy ball, and it is raining and dark, you just might drop the bag just enough for the ball to escape and roll away into the night. You will have to decide if you want to chase after it or just buy another one. If you decide to go after it you might have to get your pants wet while you search under a car, and you might have to get your shoes wet to step in a giant puddle. Might I recommend just buying another one?

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