Friday, November 06, 2009

Friday Night Christmas Shopping and Research

Stash Tea's "Merry Mint", at Amazon

Tonight I'm looking forward to going out to dinner and a movie with friends. I'll also be working on my Christmas shopping. I'm already about 45% done!


- Do a quick clutter removal from your mail table, stairs, and living room.

- Need to throw out any vases of flowers, and buy new ones for the weekend?

- If you make charitable donations during the holiday season, spend some time with your significant other discussing your charitable giving plan for this year. Figure out how much you want to give, and to which charitable organization. This year many food banks have drop boxes in locations including grocery stores, malls, tire shops, liquor stores, and other retail businesses.

- If you've been using your fireplace lately, take 5 quick minutes to brush it out. Check your supply of firewood and Duraflames; add to shopping list if needed.

- Empty the smaller wastebaskets in your house (Your kitchen trashcan is probably the responsibility of the man of the house). Do all the bathrooms, bedrooms, living rooms and office spaces. While you're in the bathrooms emptying wastebaskets, take a moment to see if the toilet paper roll needs replacing. It's amazing how easy it is to freshen and tidy up your house by doing this one little three minute chore.

- Have you had your carpets cleaned in the last six months? If not, make an appointment to have your carpets cleaned, or rent a steamer from your local grocery, hardware or Home Depot. I don't really like to clean my carpets right before the rainy, snowy, muddy season, but I also don't like to invite guests over when I have filthy carpets! Every time I have my carpet cleaned I realize how affordable it is. I have a relatively small cozy house, and lots of wood floors. My three bedrooms, two living rooms and small hallway can be cleaned professionally for around $130.

- Veteran's Day is Wednesday November 11. Take note, the post office and banks will be closed. Do your errands ahead of time. Don't forget to call or write any veterans you know in your circle of family and friends.

- Fill up your car with gas before the weekend, if needed

TODAY'S PROJECT: Holiday Shopping and Research

My Christmas shopping is always done by December 1st, every year, without fail. (I sound like I'm bragging, and I am indeed proud, but mostly I'm just stating a fact about my life!).

I start early in October and work seriously at finishing in November. Also, throughout the year I buy small gifts here and there as I come across them. I shop quickly on all three weekends of November before Black Friday. I don't have to wake up early the morning after a busy Thanksgiving, and trudge out in the dark and cold to find bargains, because I'm already done. Instead, I sleep in leisurely, then get up and make a big teapot of hot black tea, and start working on cleaning up the kitchen. Then it's movies all afternoon in front of the gas fireplace!

Then in December when my friends are running around frantically in the cold, rain and snow, fighting for parking, jostling through crowded stores, and listening to other people's kids scream, I'm home. I'm home in front of my fireplace, watching a movie, sipping cocoa (or something stronger!) and watching the rain or snow out the window. Safe and snug, with my gifts wrapped and ready to go. Aah.

Part of the reason my shopping is done so quickly is I research everything beforehand. I look around online as much as possible before going into a store. And whenever I happen to be in a store to buy something else, I look around very quickly to get ideas, see what things cost, and plan.

Later tonight, I suggest we:

- "Run" around like crazy on the Internet looking at shopping sites and doing research before you shop. See what's out there, what it costs, and look at a large variety of things to help you get gift ideas. Definitely make a paper list and write things down. You can either order things online or go into the stores in person in the upcoming weeks, but you'll be making better choices because of your research.

Also, you probably have relatives you need to mail gifts to because they live far away. Might as well order them online and let the stores do the shipping for you. (Except I think Amazon's wrapping paper is ugly, so I'll have them ship me the gifts unwrapped so I can wrap them myself, then ship them back out. It doubles the shipping cost to do it this way, but I want my carefully chosen gifts to arrive looking fabulous).

Go to websites for stores you already regularly shop at; don't waste your time just typing "christmas shopping" in Google. You'll just get back horrible, ad-filled pages by spam marketers and totally horrid products shoved in your face. Most stores have easy-to-figure-out domain names, Target is, Nordstrom is, etc.

Don't forget eBay, and Amazon for your shopping! Amazon in particular has lots of housewares and gift items besides books and DVDs. And has amazing bargains on books, music, videogames and DVDs - often brand new shrinkwrapped ones.

Tonight I'm visiting Target, Costco, Crate & Barrel, Pottery Barn, Sephora, Williams Sonoma, and Sur La Table's websites. I'm disappointed in the Pier 1 and Cost Plus Market websites. I can't necessarily afford to give my relatives presents from Pottery Barn and Crate and Barrel, but it will probably give me some ideas.

Make a gift list and budget. (My personal gifting philosophy follows in the next post. It may or may not work for you or your lifestyle; it may or may not interest you. But it's there in case you want to look).

Make a plan in advance. Set aside a weekday evening to do holiday shopping (or go tonight!). Shop during the weekend too - take advantage of the relatively uncrowded malls while you still can. The biggest shopping day of the year, November 28, is only 21 days away. After that, malls will become very uncomfortably crowded and chaotic.

During weekday evenings and lunch hours, you can knock off a lot of your shopping list in places most people don't think to do early Christmas shopping. Great places to shop in the evening include bookstores, video stores, Target and Walmart, Sears/JcPenney, and grocery stores. They stay open late and generally have plenty of free parking. You can also shop late at drugstores like Long's, Rite-Aid, Walgreens, CVS and Bartell's, but I generally think of these as panicky last-minute shopping solutions, not somewhere you go when you have plenty of time to plan ahead.

If you have kids, leave them at home with their other parent, or trade babysitting nights with a relative or another mom.

Wrap your gifts (and tag them) when you get home; or if you're too tired, at least be sure to label them with a Post it Note and mark the gift off your shopping list. You can always wrap them during a TV show you were going to watch anyway.

Did you keep track last year, in a journal perhaps, of which person you gave each gift to? I keep records of this every year, so I catch mistakes like trying to give my grandmother a flower calendar every year for Christmas four years in a row. Oops. I also have notes I jot down a couple hours after the actual gift-opening event whenever possible - I've made a note that my eight year old nephew really doesn't like books all that much, but his younger brother is never, ever tired of Thomas the Train.

This year, while we're experiencing a deep recession, I'm budgeting extremely carefully and trying to spend as little money as possible. I'm baking treats as part of my gifts, and if I were good at any crafts whatsoever, I'd be making crafts for people. (Sadly, I can't knit, sew, draw, or make cute felt toys.)

I'm consciously trying to give useful gifts this year, things people might actually need. Gloves, socks, cosmetics, bath products, food gifts and liquor. Things that might have worn out or been eaten up and thus be appreciated.

I'll spend more time carefully wrapping gifts in a lovely, fabulous manner, to make up for the fact they're more boring gifts than I'd usually be giving. I already own tons of beautiful elegant wrapping paper and fanciful ribbons, so no need to go to the store for any more of those.

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