We live within a one-mile radius of just about every store I could ever want to shop at in our area. When we bought this house, many people joked to my husband that this was a dangerous place for a woman to live. So close to all these stores!
Except, I hate shopping! I love the convenience of having all of these stores so nearby, but I would much prefer to never have a need for them in the first place. I’ve even convinced my husband to do all of our grocery shopping most weeks, so I can avoid stores as much as possible. The crowds, the lines, the rifling through racks and shelves to find what you want, pushy sales people, I want none of that.
But Christmas is a whole ‘nother ball game. I haven’t yet reached the point where I feel comfortable trusting my husband with all of our Christmas shopping. Which means that I have to tackle shopping during the most dreaded shopping times of the year for an anti-shopper. I need a battle plan. I don’t dare go into the chaos of Christmas shopping willy nilly; there must be advance planning, strategy, and a whole lot of thankfulness for the internet. Here are my top tips, just in case you hate shopping as much as I do (or maybe the stores just aren’t quite as conveniently located for you).
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1. Start with your budget.
Before you do any thinking, planning, or shopping, you must know how much you have to spend. Delaying or avoiding this step could leave you in misery for the entire next year as you dig your way out of an overspent Christmas (not that I’ve ever done this, cough, cough). Pull up your bank account, your budget spreadsheet or software (YNAB is most excellent if you need a recommendation), and do a few calculations to determine what you are working with. A budget of $100 is going to require a far different strategy than a budget of $2,000. Be realistic and honest with yourself to know how much you have to spend (and when you’ll have it if you need to wait for extra paychecks or holiday bonuses).
2. Make a recipient list.
I like to start with a brainstorm of everyone I can think of that I want/need/should/would/could buy a Christmas present for. This might include my husband and children, extended family, pets, friends, coworkers, service providers (mailman, hair lady, etc), teachers, the giving tree or other needy group/person our family would like to bless, and everyone in between. Just make a long list.
3. Make cuts, consider ideas, and develop individual budgets.
Here is where you match up your list in step 2 with the reality of your overall budget from step 1. Depending on the size of your budget, you may need to remove a few people from your list of recipients. Or you may need to start thinking creatively. What are some no budget/low budget options and ideas for some of the recipients on your list. Christmas is a time for love, relationships, and thoughtfulness, not a competition over who can give the best of the best gadgets and gizmos. Homemade and handmade items are far more meaningful than expensive gift cards and novelty items that are given out of compulsion just for the sake of giving a gift.
Once you’ve pared down your list, start to determine a budget for every single person on the list. Jot down who will receive handmade/homemade items and give a dollar amount to each person you need to purchase a gift(s) for.
4. Gather lists and do some research.
You may only have wish lists from your children, but find whatever wish lists you have been given and start browsing and matching gift ideas with your budget plans. Do not leave the house for this step. Do not add anything to your shopping carts for this step. Just create a plan. Your goal for this step is to make sure that your budget is realistic for each person and come up with a couple gift ideas for each person that will fit your budget.
This step doesn’t have to take forever. You can probably jot down ideas for many people off the top of your head since you may have a general idea regarding what you want to give them and how much it will cost. Do just a little bit of internet browsing on a few sites to come up with extra ideas and make sure your budget matches with the actual costs involved, I usually start with Amazon and Target for this step. Keep it simple, you’re not looking for the best deal, just a general price range.
5. Do all of your Christmas shopping online!
Now is where the fun begins. You have a plan, so the hard part is over. You can start adding things to your shopping cart now, but you never have to leave your house or battle the traffic (hallelujah!). For this step, you’ll want to browse around a little more than you did in the research stage to try to find the best deals, coupons, and save the most.
I usually suggest starting with Amazon’s deal pages. Around the holidays they have their regular deals of the day, and lightning deals (these don’t last long, so jump on them if you see something good), but they also have Black Friday deals, Cyber Monday deals, 12 days of deals, and last minute deals, depending on when you are getting around to this step.
Amazon is amazing, but they probably won’t meet all of your shopping needs. I tried that one year and wasn’t very pleased with the results. But the great part about our modern age is that you can find more things to buy, and more deals on those things online than you can find in the stores around you. The internet gives us access to hand-crafted, fair trade items from around the world, a small Etsy business on the other side of the country, and all those big box retailers that haven’t yet made it to your small town.
Grab yourself a cuppa tea (or a mug of coffee or hot cocoa, whatever suits your fancy), slide yourself into your coziest yoga pants, and shop to your heart’s content without the crowds, the pushy sales people, or the obnoxious traffic. Here are a few of my favorite online retailers:
6. Go to only the stores you must, and choose the right times.
There will be some things that might only be available in stores. A lot of stores tend to offer in-store only specials that I like to take advantage of, so it is possible that you just might have to brace yourself and hit up an actual brick and mortar store. The good news is that you should know exactly what you want at this point, so you don’t have to spend hours strolling the aisles and fighting with other shoppers, you can just waltz in, grab your item(s), and head to the checkout.
You may have to stand in line a bit at the checkout, so just be thankful for your handy smart phone and catch up on your Facebook feed while you wait. If you can shop during the weekdays or even late at night or early mornings during the extended holiday hours, you might even find that the lines are a little more tolerable than you expected.
Hopefully, holiday shopping can be a little less stressful for my fellow anti-shoppers this year as we tackle our Christmas shopping (mostly) in our PJ’s.
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