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Great Christmas Ideas: How to only spend a few hours shopping for ALL of your Christmas gifts!

Updated on December 29, 2009

Shop Like a Ninja Elf!

Ah, Christmas. It seems to sneak up on us every year. First it’s New Year’s, then it’s 4th of July, then it’s Halloween and then, boom! It’s Christmas. How that happens is anybody’s guess.

But because a year can streak by faster than Santa’s sleigh on Christmas Eve, there’s definitely a need for planning ahead in order to reduce the effects of that all-too-ubiquitous term: Holiday Stress.

It’s often said that work expands to fill the time allotted to it. The same can be said of any task. If you give yourself two months to shop for everyone on your Christmas list, you’ll likely be finishing up during week eight.

If the holidays are looming and you don’t have the luxury of a well-stocked gift pantry* (see below for how to accomplish this), it’s time to do some serious planning so that your Christmas shopping can be done as efficiently as a ninja – that is, you get in, you get out, and the job gets done.

1) It’s All About the Lists. Yes, that old suggestion again. Before you make any attempt at purchasing gifts for people, take a moment to sit down and write out a Christmas list (use any waiting time you’re stuck with in your schedule to accomplish this – the doctor’s office, the DMV, oil changes, and airports are good sources of usable waiting time). Grab a pen and paper and start making a list of everyone for whom you would like to buy a gift. Be picky about this process. If you’ve never purchased a gift for an acquaintance before, think carefully before you launch a chain of gift exchanges. Believe me, most people are not interested in expanding their lists, either. Part of the reason for Holiday Stress is that we have too many people to please and not enough budget.

2) Lists, Lists and More Lists. Once you have a list of people to buy for, assign a reasonable budget for each person on your list. Add up the total. If you could take that money and buy yourself a house, go back through and set lower amounts for everyone.

3) Get Creative. Ponder whether a purchased gift is in order, or if you could make something, provide a service or do a task for someone instead. Giving of your time is very meaningful and most people truly appreciate the gesture. If you’re a whiz in the kitchen, bake something yummy, wrap it up creatively and give it with a thoughtful, handwritten note. If you’ve got someone on your list who “has everything,” think of tasks or services you could perform that would really help them out – babysitting, washing a car, grocery shopping, fixing something in their house, washing windows, gardening, etc. Make a little coupon book that details what you would like to do for them, wrap it in a pretty box and add a thoughtful, handwritten note (always good advice for any gift you give). Just keep in mind that if you decide to go this route, do plan on following through with your promise in a timely manner.

4) The Shopping Appointment. Once you’ve whittled your list down to the people for whom you would really like to buy a gift, and you generally know what you would like to get them, make an appointment with yourself to go shopping. Budget about 20 minutes per gift. If you have 10 gifts to buy, give yourself about 4 hours to shop, which includes time to get yourself a fortifying snack while you’re at it -- you’ve got to keep your strength up. Shopping isn’t for wimps. If you want to be really efficient, shop alone. While this may delete some of the pleasurable aspects of shopping for some people, it will definitely make things go faster for you. You won’t have to get anyone’s input about what you’re buying, which reduces the discussions that tend to drag out the process.

5) Shop Like a Ninja. Motto: get in and get out. You can make this process easier by planning your shopping trip for the exact amount of time you’ll need before the stores close. For example, if a store or mall closes at 9 p.m. and you need to allot two hours of shopping to complete your list based on the 20-minutes-per-gift guideline, you would need to get there around 7 p.m. If you go in the morning instead, there’s a good chance you could start at 9 a.m. and be finishing at 7 p.m. Ugh. Again, only give yourself the minimum time you’ll need. Doing this will reduce the amount of agonizing you might be tempted to put yourself through.

6) It Truly is the Thought That Counts. If you put in planning time, your gift will be a thoughtful one. Don’t obsess over your decision. Remember, Christmas rolls around every year. If this year is a misstep despite your best efforts, you’ll have a whole year to try again next time. It’s not the end of the world. You tried.

7) Miscellaneous Hints to Speed Up Christmas Shopping. Some bonus hints:

a. Buy Online. This works best if you do this now and have the gifts shipped at the cheapest rate. Wrap them when they arrive and store them away. You’ll be good to go in December.

b. One Stop Shop. Go to a large department store and take care of everything in one place instead of heading to multiple locations. Plan around sales to get the best prices.

c. One Size Fits All. Buy one present for everyone (or nearly everyone) on your list. This only works if the present that you get everyone is unique enough to fit the bill. If you’ve found an amazing, life-transforming gadget that no one else knows about, you’re in business.

That’s it. You’re ready to make like an elf and get your Christmas presents taken care of early this year. A ninja elf, that is.

As promised, a little note about preparing for next year's Christmas:

*Creating a Gift Pantry:

Ideally, instead of doing your Christmas shopping during the holiday season when free time is as elusive as health food, you may want to consider shopping all year long for gifts. Once purchased, stash them on a shelf in your closet (or wherever you prefer). Just make sure that they all stay in one place so that you don’t scatter your gifts throughout the house and forget where you put them. Naturally, you can’t foresee every gift-giving opportunity ahead of time, but when you’re out shopping and you see something that you know a friend or family member would love, you should definitely buy it, set it aside and wait for the right moment to present it. Not only does this make sense time-wise, it also eases things budget-wise by spreading the costs of gifts across time, instead of packing them into one month and potentially starting off your New Year in debt.


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    • SPwrite profile image

      SPwrite 8 years ago from Los Angeles

      Thank you for your nice note, lurchthing! That made my day!

    • lurchthing profile image

      lurchthing 8 years ago

      very nicely done