Holiday shopping can be stressful and hectic, but it can also be fun. Remember, the point is not to freak out, it’s to show the people in your life that you care. It really is ‘the thought that counts’. That being said, there’s a slight difference between “I thought to buy you a gift” and “I thought about you and what you’d actually like.” I wanted to write down a few tips to just maybe make shopping a little less crazy this season so you can focus on what’s important, being with the ones you love and celebrating the holidays and all the meaning behind them. Hope it helps!
Make a list. Santa makes a list, and you should too. It’s a good idea to write down everyone you need to shop for, and then mark them off as you go. This is especially helpful if you’re buying several small gifts for one person. A list will keep you organized and help give you direction as to the kinds of stores or sites you still need to go to. It was also keep you from leaving anyone out or forgetting anything. Most importantly, it will help you set a budget once you see how far your money needs to stretch. Being organized is a great way to cut down on holiday stress. Also make a list for things you need like gift wrap, tape, tags, bows, etc. You definitely don’t want to run out of wrapping paper an hour before a Christmas party, and I’m speaking from experience on that one!
Dont put things off: I tend to start my shopping early so that I can buy a few gifts at a time as I have the money. Don’t try to do all your shopping in one day if you can help it, especially at the last minute. Don’t try to do all your wrapping in one day if you can help it, either. I understand people with small kids have to adjust things accordingly, these are just suggestions, afterall. Waiting til the last minute may seem like a good way to score some cheap deals, and sometimes it is, but it also adds to the pressure if you can’t find a gift. If you’re going to wait, at least have a backup plan. When shopping online, make sure you’re clear on the delivery estimates and shipping deadlines so that all your items arrive in time.
Sign up: Normally most people don’t like an inbox cluttered with email newsletters from every store you’ve ever shopped from. They can be annoying, especially the stores that send them daily or twice a day even. Now is not the time to be annoyed! Sign up for newsletters from every store you’re likely to shop at. If your email provider will let you, set it up so that your newsletters go to a different folder, or you could use a different email address just for newsletters. The point is that you’ll be notified of all the sales as soon as they happen, and some of them have exclusive email discounts. For places like Old Navy, the newsletters also tell which deals are available online and which are in store only.
Programs: Don’t underestimate the value of customer loyalty programs. Some of them offer specific discounts when using the stores credit card, but personally I don’t use those. Bare Minerals has a program that lets you pick your own sale day, as well as gives you a free birthday gift. Sephora also gives you a free birthday gift and lets you earn points for a bonus sample. Birchbox lets you earn points to spend in the store, and if you’re a member you can earn enough points to achieve Ace status and get free shipping and other perks. Just check out what’s out there and what the requirements are. A little research can save you a bit of money. And if your birthday is in December those birthday programs can get you a few stocking stuffers for others (or yourself!)
Comparison Shop: If you’re doing your shopping in a brick and mortar store, you probably don’t want to spend your holiday season driving from store to store checking prices. It helps to window shop online BEFORE going to the store so you have an idea of the prices that are out there. There are also barcode scanner apps that can help with comparison shopping. If you’re doing your shopping online, it’s easier to compare, but be sure you’re taking into account any coupon codes and shipping fees to find out who really has the lowest price. Which brings me to…
Coupon Codes: Anytime you shop online, be sure to check to see if the store has any coupon codes. You can get big discounts this way, and sometimes free items or free samples. Sephora always has a code of some sort, but make sure you’re using the code that benefits you the most. In Sephoras case they won’t let you use more than one code per order, so using a code for free shipping is probably going to benefit you alot more than a free sample of lipstick. However, if you spend over a certain dollar amount you can usually get free shipping without the code so that you can use the coupon code slot for another sample.
Free Shipping: It’s a good idea to know the shipping rates ahead of time for the stores you plan to shop from. Email newsletters will help you plan your shopping around free shipping weekends for particular stores. ThinkGeek has free shipping this weekend, American Eagle has free shipping all season long, and Nordstrom always has free shipping. Be sure to check the fine print as some stores will advertise free shipping, but then have a minimum you have to spend to get it. Also Amazon Prime often has free 30 day trials which gives you 2 day shipping. (Just remember that if you decide not to keep it, you have to cancel before the 30 days runs out or they will charge you). Prime is actually really handy to have, year round, as you can also stream movies and such.
Make It Fun: Shopping doesn’t have to be chaotic. If you’re shopping online, get some snacks and Christmas music and carve out a little time where you can browse and not be distracted. This is another reason to not put things off to the last minute. If you can be organized and prepared, you can minimize some of the stress and you might actually enjoy picking out presents for your loved ones. Online shopping can also help you check reviews before you fork over the money for that expensive playset, only to find out later that it isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Good reviews won’t guarantee that your items will be great or well loved, but it does help!
Homemade: Great gifts don’t have to be expensive. If you’re strapped for cash this season there are plenty of other ways to show people you care. You can find tons of craft ideas online, especially on Pinterest. Handmade ornaments, baked goods, cards, or just helping someone out can be great gifts. (If you’re baking just be mindful of other peoples allergies!) I’m sure there are some moms out there who might appreciate a day of babysitting as their present, so they can get their own shopping done! The point is that gifts don’t always have to be store bought or even material items, just think of the person and what they would appreciate. Or think of your own talents and how you can use them to help others.
I hope this list wasn’t TOO obvious and that it helps some of you. These are just suggestions for things that work well for me and help me save some money and make Christmas shopping less stressful. I definitely salute you brave souls who go out and do the black friday thing, but for me, I’d rather just shop online with a cup of hot chocolate. Anyway, I just wanted to share my ideas, and as always do your own research before trying these and find what works for you!