If you haven’t bought gifts for everyone on your list yet, chances are in the next week you’ll be doing some shopping. Holiday shopping stresses everyone out, the crowds, the impending deadline, the long list of family and friends to find gifts for. The commercial aspect of the holidays stinks, but unless you and your family have collectively decided to forgo gifts this season, shopping is a necessary part of the holidays. Everyone has their own method, and each has its pros and cons—let’s take a look at some shall we?
There is this idea that if you make your Christmas gifts rather than buy them you’re saving money and giving a unique gift, but as someone who has often taken this path, I can tell you that crafting holiday gifts can be a slippery slope. First off you have to go to Michaels, AC Moore or your local craft store. These places can be terrifying. You will stand in long lines for hours observing carts filled with scented glitter flowers, styrofoam birds, snowman tins, fake fruit, and tons of unnecessary objects bought in large quantities. By the time you’ve bought all your supplies, you’ve spent over $70 and wasted half your day. Should you realize you forgot to buy an ornament for someone, sorry! All the Christmas stuff is gone and has been replaced by conversation hearts and plastic eggs by December. So make sure you buy your supplies a few months early, and buy it in bulk.
Then you have to make your gifts, you may estimate this to take a few evening’s time, but jump-cut to Christmas Eve and you’re still painting, knitting, or decoupaging frantically. Your living room is covered in glitter and glue, and you find yourself wishing you had just bought gifts so you could be happily sipping eggnog right now. You also face the risk that someone will be insulted you didn’t get them a “real” present. Make sure you think about what you’re planning to make, and be sure it holds up against what people might be planning to give you.
The bottom-line: While crafting can be a personal and unique approach to gift giving, it must be well thought-out and executed with care. Stop and ask yourself if you would like to receive the gift you’re making, and if you have the time to put into making it well, if you can’t give a confident “yes” to those questions—it might be best to choose a different option.
The Online Shopper
Online shopping certainly makes the holidays easier, with just a few clicks you can have all your gifts delivered to your door; no crowds, no heavy shopping bags, or picked-over stores, it’s a sensible option. Online shopping does have its downsides though, the most obvious being the extra shipping cost, fortunately around the holidays most stores offer free or discounted shipping options—but wait too long and they nail you on expedited shipping. After all what use is a Christmas gift if you don’t have it by December 25th? These companies know the answer to that question, and they know they can make you pay for it.
If you’re shopping online you also have the disadvantage of being unsure what you’re getting for the cost. There is always the chance that what looked great online, seems a lot crappier in person. If you’ve seen it in stores, or the website has a generous return policy, it’s totally worth it, just make sure you check for re-stocking fees and pricey return shipping.
The bottom-line: Online shopping is great if you know what you’re looking for and you do it in advance to avoid insanely priced rush shipping—and always read return policies before you buy!
The Frantic Shopper
The frantic shopper has either waited until Christmas week to do their shopping, or has a busy schedule that only allows a few hours of holiday shopping. I have often fallen into this category—actually this was me last week on a trip to Manhattan, freezing my butt off because I wore a cute wool coat instead of my garbage-bag-like full body puffer. I hit up seven stores in record time and by the time I got on the train I was so loaded down with bags I thought my arms were going to fall off and my feet were aching and numb with cold. Did I spend more than I had planned? Yes. Did I accomplish what I set out to do? Mostly. Was I exhausted, cold, and stressed out? For damn sure.
This isn’t the most thought-out method, but it can be worth it because you get the whole thing over with in one go. The crowds though, ugh my god, whether you’re in a city, a mall, a holiday market, or driving around your neighborhood, shopping in December can be a thing of nightmares. The pushing, the fighting, the parking, the sold out shelves and endless lines, it’s enough to make me vow every year that I will find another method—maybe one of these years I’ll learn my lesson.
The bottom-line: Not for those easily phased by crowds or carrying heavy objects, but if you’re a procrastinator, it might be your only option to please everyone on your list.
The One-stop Shopper
As I pointed out above, running from store to stores can be a total pain, especially if it’s freezing, so another solution is to buy everything in one store. If you’re dealing with kids who have specific lists, or buying for a wide range of personal tastes and preferences, this might not work for you. It can be hard to find something for your teenage niece and your grandpa in the same store, but if you’re smart about it, you can make it work. This can be an efficient way to shop, but you have to be careful, because it’s easy to get lazy.
For example you may be embarrassed on Christmas when everyone opens their gifts on Christmas and it’s obvious you did all your shopping at the hardware store (who doesn’t love a mini flash-light or a measuring tape key-chain right?). Or maybe you got your siblings and parents gadgets from Best Buy, they might love it, but was your great-aunt really jonesing for a pair of pink gummy headphones? This method works great if you choose the right place, target or a discount store like TJ Maxx or Marshalls can be perfect—you just don’t want to find yourself wandering through Sephora looking for a gift for dad, unless you’re dad, unlike my dad, thinks $30 shampoo is money well spent.
The bottom-line: If you’re shopping for a bunch of people with similar tastes this is a great idea and likely to save you a lot of time—just make if a store with a wide array of products and departments.
This is my goal, this is who I want to be every year, and I never pull it together. Planners spend the year picking up gifts here and there, buying gifts for people as they come upon something they would like. Maybe they find a great sale, or use coupons too, or pay attention when people mention things they need. Then they tuck everything away in the closet so when the holidays come around, they get to sit back and relax while the rest of us find ourselves in a frenzy.
Every year I vow to start my Christmas shopping in June, and every year December comes again and I kick myself. Sure I have that one pair of socks I bought for someone, but overall I’m unprepared and wishing I had just bought that perfect gift I saw for my mom in July instead of putting it off and forgetting what it was.
The bottom-line: If you’re smart enough to do this, I am jealous of you. Enjoy relaxing next week while the rest of us are running around like crazy people. You probably already have all your gifts wrapped and under the tree too don’t you? Congratulations, you win for most efficient holiday shopper, good for you!
So which one are you?