This afternoon I'm going Christmas shopping. I normally don't like to do this on any weekends near the holidays, since the malls get so busy. But I've been sick lately and wasn't able to go out on weeknight afternoons and evenings like I'd hoped. My goal is to be completely done shopping by December first. Then I hope to finish all my gift wrapping the first week in December. That way I can relax and enjoy the holiday season without stressing about shopping.
QUICK THINGS TO DO TODAY:
- Do a quick clutter removal from your mail table, stairs (if applicable), and living room. You'll come home from your fun social activities tonight and be able to relax and unwind 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 and toy charities 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 sweep it out. Check your supply of firewood and Duraflames; add to shopping list if needed. It hasn't been cold enough to use ours much yet.
- Empty the smaller wastebaskets in your house and the kitchen trash can as needed. (Or better yet, delegate this task). Collect trash bags, if full, from 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.
TODAY'S PROJECT: Holiday Shopping and Research
This looks like it will be the first year I am not able to attain my goal of finishing my Christmas shopping on December first. My four foster kids and work have kept me extra busy, and a recent illness made shopping impossible. 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. So I really prefer to attempt to meet a December 1st shopping cutoff deadline.
It will help that this year I'm only buying gifts for children. I just don't have the budget to splurge on adult relatives or friends, though I wish I could. And it helps that throughout the year I bought a few small gifts here and there as I came across them and thought of a particular child.
REAPING THE REWARDS OF SHOPPING EARLY:
I don't have to wake up early in the morning after a busy Thanksgiving. I won't have to trudge out in the dark and cold to find bargains, because I'll be already nearly done shopping. Instead, I will sleep in leisurely, get up and make a big pot of hot black tea, and start working on cleaning up the kitchen from the previous night's festivities. After that I can watch movies all afternoon in front of my cozy gas fireplace. Much nicer than fighting crowds at the stores!
Then in December when everyone else is 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'll be home. I'll be home in front of my fireplace, watching a movie, sipping cocoa (or something stronger - a hot toddy perhaps?) 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 each year, 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.
In the evenings this weekend and next week, I suggest we explore quite a bit 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 if that helps. Look at products people are pinning on Pinterest, too.
Be sure to make a paper list or a Word document and write things down. You can either order things online or go into the stores in person in the upcoming weeks, but you'll make better choices because of your research.
Also, you probably have relatives you need to mail gifts to because they live far away. You might as well order them online and let the stores do the shipping for you. I'm definitely counting a lot on Amazon this year to help me finish my shopping quickly.
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 ugly products shoved in your face.
Make a gift list and create your budget. Make a plan in advance. Also budget for your time, not just the money you'll spend. Try to have a plan so you don't wander aimlessly and frustrated around a crowded shopping mall.
This year I have the tightest shopping budget I've ever experienced. I'm budgeting extremely carefully and trying to spend money on practical gifts this year (clothes and books for the kids, food for adults if I break down and purchase gifts for grownups). I have a foster teenager in the house, and three boy cousins who need new clothes for Christmas. I won't overdo it on the gifts - the last thing any of us needs right now is more clutter in our homes.
Instead of buying the kids huge amounts of toys this year (like I did last Christmas right after their mother died) I am going to prioritize spending money on events. We want to go see Elf: The Musical, and I'd like to take the kids to see Garden D'Lights at the nearby botanical garden. This costs time and money - the money for our tickets and for the meal we'll undoubtedly eat together afterwards, and time for me to drive the kids there and back, eat dinner and visit the garden. Budgeting time in a busy season like this is half of the gift.
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'll spend time carefully wrapping gifts in a lovely, fabulous manner, to make up for the fact they're more boring gifts (like socks and clothing) than I'd usually be giving.
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, Target and Walmart, Trader Joe's, 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. This will save you a lot of time, hassle and frustration. I so prefer shopping without my kids tagging along!
KEEPING TRACK OF GIFTS:
Wrap your gifts (and tag them) right away when you get home from shopping. 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.
LOVELY HOLIDAYS: Retro Style Wrapping Paper
I'm so delighted with this year's wrapping paper designs from The Container Store. They have several adorable vintage retro style designs that are just so cheerful I can hardly stand it. I don't usually go for "cutesy" wrapping paper, but this year I feel a bit of nostalgia. Here are a few of my favorites: