Plan Ahead Now for Christmas Shopping Success!

If you are like most people – you probably aren’t thinking about the holidays yet. Most people don’t start thinking about their Christmas shopping until just around Thanksgiving. Everyone knows that the “biggest shopping day of the year” is the day after Thanksgiving.

Have you ever experienced the day after Thankgiving at your local mall? In two words: total chaos.

I got into the habit early of starting my Christmas shopping while in college. I worked for a major retailer and the holiday season was just too hectic for me to actually get my own shopping done. Between longer hours at work and studying for final exams and papers – it was pretty intense. The first holiday season I was pretty embarrassed because I didn’t plan it right and managed not to buy holiday gifts for everyone in my family because of this holiday schedule. That’s why I started my Christmas shopping in September the following year, and just about every year thereafter.

Here are some tips to make your holiday shopping go smoothly without much fuss. Some of them you may have already thought of and some of them may be new ideas to you. All of them do not take very much time, just a bit of preparation ahead of time and the intention to put a plan into place.

Tip #1: Set A Budget
So often we hear people lament in January and February that they are now “paying” for their holiday shopping on their credit cards. That this year, they went overboard. Well this year, set a reasonable budget and do your best to stick to it. Allow yourself some “wiggle room”, maybe ten percent within the budget. If you plan your purchases ahead of time – especially the big ones (as these tips will suggest) – you are sure to save a good amount of money. So make a list of the people you will give gifts to, and an approximate dollar amount of how much you will spend on them this year.

Tip #2: To Buy Gifts People Will Like, Do Some Brainstorming
How many times have you found yourself standing in the store, fifteen minutes to the closing time. You are holding a scarf in one hand and a sweater in the other. You don’t like the color of the scarf and the sweater is the wrong size. Both are too expensive. But you HAVE to buy this person a gift. What do you do? Well…what you can do ahead of time is a little brainstorming about what type of gift this person will like. This can save you time, money & holiday season sanity. To brainstorm, write this person’s name down on a sheet of paper. Write down any details about them, occupation, age, town they live in, hobbies etc. Now write down anything else that comes to mind. Do they love crossword puzzles? Do they play tennis? Are they an avid marathon runner? Do they always watch a particular tv show?

If for any reason you come across someone where you can’t come up with anything – a great tip is to give this person a call for a friendly chat. You do not have to come right out and ask them what they would like for a gift, because often most people will say “oh, just about anything will do”. But what you can do with this conversation is ask them about themselves. Most people, with a gentle nudge – are happy to talk about their interests, hobbies, house, children, grandchildren, pets, etc. Their answers will help give you ideas for a gift to get them. And a fifteen minute telephone call is a very inexpensive way to find out how to make someone happy this holiday season.

Tip #3 Start Gift Ideas List of What to Get People
For some people, the gift ideas will come to you very easily. Your children will often give you explicit directions on exactly the toys they would like for the holidays. Other people may be a little challenging. This is where you turn to the brainstorming exercise above. Check out a search engine such as www.google.com and do a search for that item with the added word gift. So if their occupation was Real Estate Agent, look for Real Estate Agent gift. If their hobby is trout fishing, look for trout fishing gift. Items should start coming up quickly. Print out items you like, or bookmark the pages in your favorites list, however you want to organize this.

Tip #4 Check Out A Price Comparison Search Engine
Once you have an idea of items you would like to purchase, visit a price comparison search engine such as www.mysimon.com. Enter the item and see what prices come up. You will quickly see that in some cases you can save $30 or even $50 dollars by shopping at a different store, the website will do all of the searching for you. Remember that if you are shopping online or by catalogue to keep in mind shipping charges and add them into the prices. Sometimes going to an actual store can save you money – but then you have to confirm they have the item that you want, consider calling them and asking them to put it on hold for you.

Tip#5 Start Your Shopping
Now that you have a good idea of what to get people for the holidays, you are ready to start placing orders. It is good to order items as soon as possible so you do not have to worry about being back ordered or paying extra for shipping at the holidays. You can also order a couple of items per paycheck, paying for your holiday shopping one bit at a time, making it a bit easier on your wallet.

Tip#6 Keep All Of Your Holiday Receipts In One Place
To make sure you are sticking to your budget, and also to make sure there are no problems with your holiday shopping – or if anyone would like to return an item – put aside an envelope with all of the receipts from your holiday shopping. You can put this in a file drawer, in your purse, just somewhere that you can get at it easily.

Tip#6 Find A Storage Place
If you live with other people – especially curious children, you are going to need a good storage place for your gifts! Think of a place in your home where people are not likely to go, the attic, the cellar, underneath your bed. There are many ways to disguise your gifts, put them in plain brown grocery bags so they don’t look that interesting for example.

Tip#5 Organize Your Holiday Gift Wrapping Supplies Early
Everyone will need gift wrapping supplies, it is important that you get what you need ahead of time. If you need to ship gifts to other states or even other countries, be sure to allow plenty of time to get gifts where they need to go. You can save money by shipping gifts early as opposed to later in the holiday season, so being organized will certainly pay off.

A great tip if you are gift wrapping for your immediate family is to gift wrap everyone’s gifts in a different type of wrapping paper. So your son gets snowman paper, your daughter gets snowflakes, your husband gets santa. This means you can gift wrap your gifts as you get them, storing them gift wrapped and no one will be the wiser as to what the area. You can add gift tags – just so everyone knows who the gifts are from.

Finally – relax and enjoy the holiday season!

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