Which Christmas Shopping Strategy Saves Money and Time?
It's Black Friday. Do you have your Christmas shopping done? Have you even started? Or are you one of those who waits till the last minute, cramming more gift buying into the final hours of Christmas Eve than is humanly possible?
When it comes to buying gifts for the holidays, everyone's got their tried-and-true strategy. It works for them and can't imagine doing it any other way. But could there actually be a better way to approach the whole Christmas shopping experience?
This hub explores some of the different ways people get their Christmas shopping done and the pros and cons of each.
In describing each shopping strategy, I've made some assumptions about you, the reader/gift buyer. I'm assuming that
a) You do not have an unlimited budget ("money is no object" does not apply)
b) You do not have unlimited time to devote to Christmas shopping
c) You care about your sanity and want to contain, if not minimize, the stress of Christmas shopping
I always welcome alternative solutions. If you have a secret shopping tip not mentioned here, please share it via the comments.
Does the Early Bird Shopper Get the Worm?
We all know them. The people who ask us on October 1st if we're "ready for the holidays" yet. And they don't mean Halloween. The mean Christmas. "Oh yes, I just finished the last of my shopping!" they declare -- as if this is the most natural thing in the world.
I just smile sweetly and respond, "Oh no.Not quite yet. I've still got a few presents to buy." What I really mean by that is, "I don't even want to think about Christmas shopping for at least two months (you freak)."
Although I can't personally relate, I can admire the Early Bird Shopper. It's wise to be an all-year-round shopper. Meaning, if it's May and you see something you know would be perfect for Aunt Sally, the smart thing is to buy it on the spot. You know you'll never find it again, especially not six months later. Seize the bargain, as they say.
Related Hub on Holiday Overindulgence
Pros and Cons of Early Bird Shopping
There is sound financial wisdom to buying presents early. It's a lot easier to budget (and stick to your budget). You can spread out your purchases -- and your payments -- over a series of months. By the time Christmas hits, your gifts are in hand and paid off. While everyone else is heading into a January money hangover, you'll be in great shape.
My only concern with the early bird strategy (aside from the fact I could never in a million years follow it myself) is does it save money on each gift? Probably so. Today, with retailers offering a plethora of sales for other Fall holidays (Labor Day, Veterans Day, etc.), there's no tradeoff involved.
Black Friday Ninja Shopping
Is it me, or has Black Friday officially overtaken Thanksgiving? How many ads have we seen on TV touting "Black Friday" shopping? How many circulars were in yesterday's newspaper? Not to mention the dozens of emails -- all with "Black Friday" in the subject line.
The whole idea of "Black" Friday is that it's the day retailers start to turn a profit for the year. With margins as slim as they are, stores must balance out deeply discounted items with money-making items. And volume's important, too. Once they've got you in their store, they want you to do all your shopping there, not take any of your precious shopping dollars down the street to their competitor
Black Friday Ninja Shopping Pros and Cons
You can call me lazy but you can't call me crazy. There is no way I will ever, ever fall for the Black Friday come-on. There is absolutely nothing at Target, Walmart, Kohl's, SEARS, Best Buy, Fry's or any other retail store worth getting up in the middle of the night for. Moving the insanity up to midnight doesn't make it any better. Black Friday turns shopping into a competitive sport. I don't have the stomach for it.
The pros of Black Friday Ninja Shopping. Do the rabid, middle-of-the-night bargain hunters know something I don't? Because honestly, I'm coming up blank on the "pros."
Perhaps you, unlike me, do view shopping as a competitive sport. To you they're not presents, they're prizes. The thrill of Black Friday shopping isn't in buying gifts, it's in beating out other rabid bargain hunters.
The cons. But as a financial strategy, does it add up? Are the prices advertised to lure you into the store in the wee hours really the best they're going to be all season? In this economy? Doubtful. The retailers are playing you like the latest XBox 360 game. They've got you exactly where they want you!
How can you make sound purchasing decisions when you're both sleep deprived and pumped up on adrenaline? The answer is, you can't. So chances are, Black Friday Ninja Shopping costs you more money in the long run.
Black and Blue Friday
Cyber Monday and Internet Shopping
"Cyber Monday" is the Monday following Thanksgiving. It's the "traditional beginning of the online Christmas shopping season—when consumers return to work and start ordering online." (Wikipedia). How quaint! And how civilized -- waiting till after the Thanksgiving holiday weekend to start the shopping frenzy!
Truly, there's much to be said for Christmas shopping online. It's convenient. It's efficient. It's focused. I dare say you can find anything online that you can find in the stores -- in your own time, with no crowds, no parking lots, and no waiting for a cashier to price check your items.
More Christmas Faves
Your Christmas Shopping Strategy
How do you prefer to shop for your Christmas gifts?See results without voting
Pros and Cons/Internet Shopping
Throughout December, Santa comes at least once a day to my house. Only he's not in his sleigh, he's in a brown UPS truck and he wears shorts. That's because my son is a diehard Amazon.com shopper. Of course, he uses other Internet sites as well, but usually just for comparison shopping.
For me, even though I'm not the one online shopping, there's something nice about seeing all these packages arrive, not knowing what's inside, or who they're for. It helps put me in the holiday spirit.
So what are the main benefits of cyber shopping? Convenience is right up there. Online stores are open 24/7. You don't have to drive there, find a parking spot, or fight the crowds.
Item for item, you'll probably pay the same online as in stores. Shipping used to be an added expense, but these days, online retailers do everything they can to compete. If that means "free shipping" on orders of $25 or more or "everything ships for $2" then so be it. And they go out of their way to make sure you'll get your merchandise in time for Christmas.
The cons of online shopping are few, but can be significant for some shoppers. FIrst of all, you're "buying blind." Sure, you can click for a larger view, but you can't hold an item in your hand and feel the quality. That's important to some shoppers.
Financially, online shopping is (in my opinion) no better or worse than retail shopping. It's maybe a little easier to be disciplined because you have to think before you press "check out." On the other hand, if you're shopping on multiple sites where your credit card number is on file, it's easy to lose track of how much you're putting on that card(s).
The Holiday Mall Rat
In years past I spent a lot of time in malls. When my son was little, the mall was the place to get Santa photos taken. The decorations are lovely, the smell of Kettle Corn fills the air, and that helps set the tone for a festive shopping experience.
I still like malls, but haven't set foot in one in years. The main reason being the parking situation. As distasteful as I find competitive shopping (see Black Friday paragraph, above), I find competitive parking even worse. Schlepping the length of two football fields -- in the pouring rain -- from my car to the mall entrance is not my idea of fun. Schlepping back, loaded down with heavy bags makes me feel positively Scrooge-like.
Aside from that, malls are great. If...
Can't go wrong with a gift basket
Pros and Cons of Mall Shopping
Malls are great if you don't know what you're looking for and have plenty of time to spend locating it. They're great if you don't mind paying mall prices. Because the overhead at a mall is high. Somebody's got to pay for Santa and his helpers, the beautiful decorations, and the mall advertising to bring traffic to the mall (as opposed to any individual store within the mall). That would be you.
The pros of mall shopping include: wide selection of retailers in one convenient place, climate controlled shopping (unless it's an outdoor mall, of course) and a nice atmosphere.
The cons of mall shopping include battling crowds just to get inside and notoriously high prices (which can be mitigated by watching the retailers' sales circulars and coupons).
Last-Minute Christmas Shopping
Finally, we come to a shopping strategy that's near and dear to my heart. Well, technically, it's Hubby's strategy. And Hubby is near and dear to my heart.
The Last-Minute Christmas Shopper crams all of his/her gift buying into the final three days before Christmas. The really hard core LMCS won't even start shopping until Christmas Eve.
This is a gutsy move, but can pay off handsomely.
Ways to Avoid Holiday Overspending
- 13 Ways to Avoid Holiday Overspending | Financially Fit - Yahoo! Shine
Read '13 Ways to Avoid Holiday Overspending' from our blog Financially Fit on Yahoo! Shine. You start out the holiday season with the best of budget intentions: You'll buy modest gifts (or even hand-make them!), keep the entertaining low-key, and sti
- Forbes: How to avoid holiday overspending - Business - Forbes.com - msnbc.com
Pros and Cons of Last-Minute Christmas Shopping
The positives of last minute shopping: In his own way, the LMCS is the smartest shopper of all. Here's why:
He maximizes his limited shopping time. He is every bit as organized as his Early Bird counterpart. He has to be, or else he will wander aimlessly and the stores will close before he finishes buying the presents on his list.
He also gets great deals. I have not done a controlled (or even uncontrolled) study, but I would venture to guess the LMCS is reaping the same -- if not more -- bargain pricing benefits as the Black Friday Shopper.
And, unlike the Online Shopper, the LMCS is not shopping in isolation. He's in the Christmas groove. By noon on December 24, the stores -- and shoppers -- are filled with anticipation and good cheer.
Are there any cons to last minute shopping? It's high risk/potentially high reward. Thus, it's not for everyone. (But then, neither are any of the other Christmas shopping strategies!)
I wish you and yours a delightful holiday -- no matter how you choose to shop for it!
Holiday Shopping Tips
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