Since I’m a professional shopper, it stands to reason that I’m the designated Christmas Presents Buyer for family and friends. Some of my friends think I’m weird for enjoying the process, but I DO! - from list building and budgeting, to selecting, bargain hunting, wrapping and the actual gifting – it makes me happy to be able to search and give Christmas presents to my loved ones every year.
Perhaps I should clarify that my presents are not the most expensive, in fact, cost to me is usually a secondary consideration. My gift choices tend to slant towards “practical”, “fun”, or even “weird”, very rarely luxury products ;) I assure you, there is a system to my madness and in today’s blog, I thought I’d share some of my behind the scenes Secret Tips for Christmas Shopping.
1. Make a List
Every year, Christmas Shopping begins with a list. I write down the names of all the family members, friends, colleagues, children of friends and colleagues, church, charities (and ME) that I want to give presents to. I have a photo chart (I’m a visual person, what can I say??) of all the people I am buying presents for because I like to see their faces, and imagine how happy they’ll be when they see their presents! Another reason is because I may want to buy them clothes or accessories etc and having their photos handy helps me to visualise if the colour/style of the item I’m selecting will look good on them.
2. Put Your Heart In It
I believe that successful Christmas Shopping has to come from the HEART and with some effort! My favourite Christmas Shopping mantra is: ”It’s not about YOU." It’s about the person the gift is for. If you really want to give a nice Christmas present to someone dear, you need to have spent time with the person through the year. Don’t just show up at Christmas with a generic gift of sorts, utter the cursory festive greetings, and consider the deed done. I know this sounds really elementary, but be observant when you’re with your potential Christmas present receivers throughout the year. What does the person like? Does she drink tea or coffee? What colour does she gravitate towards? What’s her favourite kind of music? What does she think is COOL? Make mental notes of your friend’s quirks and record your observations in your smartphone, they may come in handy when Christmas Shopping comes around.
3. Don’t Be Shy About Budgeting
Christmas Shopping should be fun! Like the Bible says: “Its more blessed to give than to receive.” Anytime your Christmas Shopping starts to feel more like a financial burden instead of the joyful activity it’s supposed to be, you’ve probably wandered into overspending zone! I scribble a budget next to each photo of the persons I’m buying presents for and I stick to it! At times, if I have an interesting gift idea for someone, which exceeds my personal budget, I’ll rally a few mutual friends to pull our resources together to get our friend that special gift. I find that this works best for family members and close friends when purchasing higher ticket items. Don’t be shy about sharing presents. I think it's better to receive a few presents that I’ll actually use and enjoy, than a lot of random presents that looked like they got picked up from the nearest convenient store! Furthermore, the friends that you approached to share the present with, could be racking their brains to come up with a suitable gift for your mutual friend too! It’s a case of quality over quantity and you voicing your suggestions actually demonstrates thoughtfulness for both your giving and receiving friends. Another great Christmas budgeting tip is to set a cap of $XX with colleagues or friends on Christmas gifts. Better yet, do an office gift exchange capped at $XX, that way, everybody needs to buy only ONE gift!!
4. Avoid Impulse Buying
It’s easy to get swept up in the holiday spirit when everything in the malls are screaming Christmas cheer and SALES are everywhere. Don’t get conned into buying things you don’t need just because of the discounts. If you didn’t need it at full price, you don’t need it at 50% off! Actively rein in your “inner spendthrift” to avoid what researchers have dubbed the “shopping momentum effect” – the thrill of buying one item can fuel more, usually unnecessary, purchases. Keep your eyes on your old-fashion list and don’t stray!
5. Make Your Own Christmas Gifts
Going homemade can be a great way to add a personal touch to your holiday shopping list. My kids tell me you can practically learn to make anything on Youtube these days. Through the years, I’ve baked cookies, bottled my own jams, made necklaces, brooches, rings, earrings, keychains and even knitted baby booties! Of course they were time consuming, but it was fun and some of my friends still have my handmade presents to this day! Certainly makes the effort worthwhile ;) If you’ve never tried your hand at a handmade present, perhaps this is a great year to get started – the holidays are a great time to pursue new ventures!
6. Buy Myself A Christmas Present After Christmas
I know this one sounds weird but I have a habit of congratulating myself for a job well done, so after all the Christmas partying is done, and when all the shops are on massive discounts, I tally my Christmas spending – budget versus actual, and with whatever that’s leftover, I buy myself a present ;) It’s a motivation for me to keep within my means when doing all that Christmas shopping, but also a reward for myself, for a year well spent!
7. Stock Up For Next Christmas In January
Christmas is the year's costliest shopping time, while January sales the cheapest! This is a global phenomenon, so if you’re after a big-ticket family purchase like a television or games console… wait. Give the kids a nicely-wrapped IOU, telling them you're waiting for the sales. You could also buy a small extra gift from potential savings to show the benefit of waiting. This way, kids get a triple whammy: the gift, the extra and a lesson in money sense. Then, when January comes around, make good on your promise. While you’re at the mall, it's a great time to pick up bargains for next Christmas. Retailers will be clearing leftover Christmas cards, wrapping papers, decorations etc. so now is a great time to stock up for next Christmas. Nobody is going to remember that you bought these on sale when December comes around!
Lastly, I like to buy one or two extra Christmas Gifts just to be safe. You never know if a last minute Christmas invitation arrives or we receive an unexpected gift, or somebody slipped your mind in the midst of your planning. Gift cards are a great for contingencies, or a nice bottle of champagne or wine will do the job too.
That’s my list for Christmas Shopping success. Happy shopping everyone, and may the gifts you give this Christmas, bring you as much joy as they bring your loved ones! Happy Christmas Shopping to all ;)