Wednesday, January 7, 2009

How to buy Christmas presents

Originally posted to Xanga on December 15, 2008

I went Christmas shopping with my small group from church yesterday - it was a fun time, especially trying on hats at Forever 21. However, walking back to the car, we were contemplative as to exactly how successful the trip had been. Because Christmas shopping is no walk in the park - this is tough stuff. Not only is it tough to figure out what to get whom, there's also the battle against the budget. Shopping is expensive! It requires spending actual money! But Christmas shopping doesn't have to be painful or hard. This is how it's done:

• Have a list
Srsly. Most people, when list-less, are goners. The list should include who you're shopping for, what you'd like to get them, and what your target price range for those things are. Also, it's helpful to write on the list what stores carry the things you're looking for, because . . .

• The key to bargains is shopping around
You can't just walk into the store and hope that what you're looking for has a great price. It takes a little shopping around to get to know which stores have good sales on books, or which have the best prices on jewelry. If you just know where to get what you're looking for, it's easier to spend less when Christmas shopping.

• There's nothing wrong with cliches
My dad is kind of hard to shop for. So when we find something he does want, we milk it. Getting people what they want IS thoughtful, even if you feel like it's predictable. It doesn't matter how unique it is if the person doesn't want or need  it.

• Give perishables
Who doesn't like getting food?! It's always one of my favorite Christmas presents, occasionally more so than books. Also, there's arguably more variety in food than in any other genre of Christmas presents. Food for the win!

• Have a back up
You can't always get your first-choice present for someone. It's not realistic. If you have a back up plan, though, when your perfect, first-choice present doesn't happen, you still have a semi-cool idea to replace the unrealistic one. It's better than just settling for something last minutes when you finally give up on the perfect gift.

• Utilize Black Friday
And other sales. Honestly, if you know what you're going in for and where to look for it, there are some great deals to be had. This past year I got a rad deal on some picture frames and photo albums for my sister that I would have ordinarily paid way more for. If you can brave the crowds, and if you know what you're looking for, the sales are usually worth it.

• Don't buy something you wouldn't want for yourself
As a general rule, and this isn't always true, but generally if you wouldn't want to get it, neither would the person you're giving it to. Especially if the present in question is inspired by common interests, if you like it, they'll probably like it, too. And then you won't feel guilty if they hate it, because you would have bought it for yourself!

• Make the gift thoughtful
It's really lame for the giftee if the gift you're giving is lame. It sounds like Christmasy cliche, but it's about giving, so if the giving part isn't fun, something's wrong. If you think about each present then you can be satisfied in giving it to someone. Giving after-thought presents is really no fun at all.

I love Christmas shopping, and these are the rules I generally shop by. Because really, I used to be horrible at Christmas (and no really, I hated it, even) and it wasn't until I learned how to Christmas shop that it became fun for me. It's not something to stress about - it's fun, and if it's not fun for you, you're missing the point.

So how do you Christmas shop?

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