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Stress-Free Christmas Shopping Advice
Christmas Shopping Time
There are screaming children everywhere. The store shelves have been bare for days. People are running around like maniacs. There is chaos in the streets. Angry drivers are willing to run anyone over that gets in their way. People are wiling to fight for the last items they need at any store.
Am I talking about the apocalypse? No. I am talking about Christmas shopping. Each year it gets a little more hectic than the year before. But it doesn't have to be that way! There are alternatives to the torture of Christmas shopping. Join me as I discuss ways to make Christmas shopping as stress-free as possible.
Make a List and Check it Twice!
The best way to have a stress-free holiday shopping season is to start planning in advance. Some people will tell you they collect Christmas items all year and stash them away in storage until Christmas rolls around. This works fine for someone who is organized and can find these items later. However, I believe the average person is not that great at keeping track of the items and being secretive about them for months can be a major challenge.
For the average person, I would say start creating a list early. Making a list is a good idea, but also tweak the list before you start shopping depending on any changes to your friends' and family members' needs. Many people begin shopping in August or September. Personally, I feel like that can have its own stresses. You may buy an item for someone only to find they no longer need it a few months down the road when Christmas has almost arrived. Nothing is more stressful than return lines during the holiday shopping season. In order to avoid that at all costs, it is better to start once the holiday sales begin in October or even as late as November (if you can tolerate some crowds and crying kids).
Once you've made your list and you are going to start shopping, don't forget to create a budget on the list. It is OK to have a small budget for Christmas. It is also OK to make some cute gifts for friends and family members. Christmas should not be about spending the most money and getting caught up in buying more than you can afford. That is only going to cause more stress. Also, keep in mind you should add a little extra money to the budget than planned. No matter who you are, you are going to have to adjust spending plans occasionally. Sometimes you will have to alter your list a little if a sale item just isn't available or someone's wishlist changes. If you plan on having the list or budget change slightly, then you won't become too stressed when you have to change it.
Even if you enjoy shopping at stores and don't mind the hustle of the crowds, sometimes life is so much easier with online shopping. You might intend to do most of your shopping in the stores, but if you are shipping a number of gifts out of state, you should consider buying all of those items online. Going to the post office during the holiday season is never fun, and that is putting it lightly. If you buy items online, you can often have the store gift wrap them, add a personalized note, and ship it wherever it needs to go. It is the perfect stress-free solution to shipping Christmas presents.
If you are not shipping items anywhere, it is still a good idea to get some shopping done online. You can view many different items and sometimes find items not available at the store. If you do not have the time to Christmas shop, you may want to order everything online. Just beware if an item is not stocked. Don't just assume they will get it before Christmas because that does not always happen.
Some of the best all-purpose websites to use for online holiday shopping, that I have used in the past, are:
Keep in mind, many online retailers will be offering great bargains on what is now known as "Cyber Monday." This is the Monday after Black Friday. Plenty of retailers will offer online coupons, sales, and free shipping to appeal to you on Cyber Monday. Just don't get carried away paying too much for items just because of the free shipping deal. In some cases, you could have saved money just going to the store and buying the item at a better price. However, if convenience and less stress is more your priority, by all means take advantage of the free shipping and simply pay a little more for the purchases.
Gift Cards Rule!
When in doubt, a thoughtful gift card is a great gift. Some folks think they are too impersonal, but I disagree. If you know your friend likes to shop at a certain store, that friend will certainly appreciate a gift card for that store. If you aren't sure of a store your friend really likes, a Visa, Discover, or American Express gift card is a good thought, too. Just remember there will be fees involved and a store gift card is usually a better idea if possible.
Some people do not like to just give a gift card to loved ones. A cute idea is a box of chocolates, a small gift basket, or a small stuffed animal with the gift card. This makes the gift seem more personal and also makes it thoughtful. In this economy, many people cannot afford to buy the items they want or need. A gift card gives a person the opportunity to buy things they actually want and not feel guilty about it.
Instead of stressing yourself out over finding the "perfect gift," you can easily give a gift card. In most cases, the gift card will be appreciated more than most Christmas presents anyway. The bottom line is, don't let Christmas shopping bring you down too much. There are many options out there. With some planning, a good budget, and possibly some online shopping instead of going from store to store, you can brighten your own holiday season by making Christmas shopping stress-free.