Friday, November 12, 2010

Friday Night Christmas Shopping


Trader Joe's festive holiday green tea is back!

Tonight I'm looking forward to going out to dinner with friends. I'll also be working on my Christmas shopping. Yesterday I bought a few calendars and several books, so I'm making good progress on my shopping list. My goal is to be completely done shopping by December first; then finish wrapping the first week in December.

QUICK THINGS TO DO TODAY:

  • Do a quick clutter removal from your mail table, stairs, and living room. You'll come home from tonight's socializing and relax in a clean home.

  • 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 charity. 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 quick 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 this weekend. 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.

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

TODAY'S PROJECT: Holiday Shopping and Research


I'm going to splurge on these ornament coasters, since I enjoy my seasonal Halloween and Easter coasters so much.

My Christmas shopping is always done by December 1st, every year. (I'm bragging a little bit here!) Shopping is not a chore, and I don't feel obligated to give gifts to friends and family - it's something I love doing. It's a fun challenge to find something to surprise or delight someone with. But I also love staying home on freezing cold December nights, lighting a fire and avoiding crowds at the mall.

I start early in October and work seriously to finish in November. Also, throughout the year I buy small gifts here and there as I come across them and think of someone. I shop quickly on all three weekends of November before Black Friday.

REAPING THE REWARDS OF SHOPPING EARLY:

I don't have to wake up early the morning after a busy Thanksgiving. I don't have to trudge out in the dark and cold to find bargains, because I'm already done. Instead, I sleep in leisurely, get up and make a big teapot of hot black tea, and start working on cleaning up the kitchen. After it's movies all afternoon in front of the gas fireplace! Much nicer than fighting crowds at the stores.

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.


I am not going to let myself buy these festive Jolly plates. I don't need them and have nowhere to store them. But oh so cute!

RESEARCH:

Part of the reason my shopping is done so quickly, is that 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 peek around very quickly to get ideas, see what things cost, and plan gifts for the future.

Later tonight, I suggest we "Run" around like crazy on the Internet looking at shopping sites and doing research before we shop. See what's out there, what it costs, and look at a large variety of things to help you get gift ideas. Browse through magazines you might have lying around such as "Lucky" and "In Style" to see current trends.

Be sure to 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 Target.com, Nordstrom is Nordstrom.com, etc.

Don't forget eBay, Half.com and Amazon for your shopping! Amazon in particular has lots of housewares and gift items besides books and DVDs. And Half.com 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 can't necessarily afford to give my relatives presents from Pottery Barn and Crate and Barrel, but it will probably give me some ideas.

BUDGET:

Make a gift list and create your budget. 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 26, is only 14 days away. After that, malls will become very uncomfortably crowded and chaotic.

This year, while we're experiencing the aftermath of 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.

TIME-SAVING SHOPPING LOCALES:

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.

KEEPING TRACK OF GIFTS:

Wrap your gifts (and tag them) when you get home. If you're too tired, at least be sure to label them with a Post it Note with your intended recipient's name on it. Mark the gift off your shopping list. You can always wrap gifts later 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 first nephew really doesn't like books all that much, but his younger brother is never, ever tired of Thomas the Train.

LOVELY BABY: Petunia Pickle Bottom's "Cake" Diaper Bags


I love this concept! It is a bit silly but it makes me smile. This line of diaper bags is inspired by cakes. The bags include Buttercream Cake Carryall (in seven colors), Chocolate Decadence Cake Society Satchel, Red Velvet Cake Cosmopolitan Carryall, and the Apple Tart Cake Cameo Clutch.

I sadly have no need for a diaper bag, so I must just admire these from afar!

Petunia Pickle Bottom

LOVELY BLOGS: Live the Charmed Life

"The elegant guide to lifestyle design." This blog encourages you to live with a fabulous attitude. Live "as if you’re the luckiest girl in the world," be appreciative, create an enchanting home, live stylishly but simply, and savor your experiences. Recent posts include the very helpful 100 Things to Do When the Worst Happens.

I think you'll learn a lot from this blog.

http://livethecharmedlife.com/

LOVELY FOOD: Moonstruck Chocolates' Holiday Pie Truffle Collection


I love the theme of this cute boxed set of truffles. The pie-shaped truffles come in flavors including Apple Pie Truffle, Pumpkin Pie Truffle, and Pecan Pie Truffle. I'm definitely getting a couple boxes as Christmas gifts for relatives, and I might pick up a box in case I need a nice hostess gift sometime.

Holiday Pie Collection, at Moonstruck

LOVELY LINKS FOR TODAY:

Emergency Gifts (Lovely Living Archives)

Hobby-Related Gifts (Lovely Living Archives)

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