Holidays: How Do You Shop? (Long)

runninginplaceNovember 19, 2004

I thought this might be an interesting topic, and possibly helpful to get ideas from each other. How do you do your holiday shopping? When do you shop? Online? Big box stores or small boutiques? Early in the morning? Weekdays? Do you hit the Thanksgiving weekend blowout sales and/or the post-Xmas clearance bonanzas?

I notice with real admiration that some of us set a goal, and make it, of having all the shopping done before a set date-Thanksgiving, or Dec. 1. I just can't seem to do that-for one thing I find I need 'inspiration' for my gift ideas and it just doesn't seem to come unless it's the "official" time of the year, or close to it. I have noticed too that especially in the past few years, retailers seem to play a game of shopping 'chicken': they wait till late then really slash prices. So I've gotten caught in the past buying something then being irritated by-or worse, wasting time returning/rebuying-items that end up going on sale cheaper later. I do try to be finished a couple of weeks before the holiday, at least for things I need to physically go out and buy (as opposed to online stuff). I really can't stand the last minute crowds. Never have done the shopping-on-Christmas-Eve thing. One of my sisters though is famous in the family for her drugstore gifts, purchased the night before or, worse, on the way to the family celebration :).

My pattern is to try to get my list together by Thanksgiving. I generally have a few things bought by then, particularly non-critical gifts (ie not for family-office coworkers, teachers etc). Because of my job rhythm, I can use personal time to take off week days to take advantage of fewer people in the stores. I generally stick to major retailers because I'm a big price shopper. I do the mall scene but only when I have specific items in mind...roaming aimlessly through department stores in search of inspiration is a nightmare for me. I've started shopping online more in the past few years when the items are nonperishables like books, DVDs, CDs. If the price is right the convenience is unbeatable. I always try for free shipping of course. Online is also good for something specific I can't find locally. Last year for example, I found and ordered my MIL's favorite style of moccasins online.

I don't generally do the post-Thanksgiving frenzy sales. I tried it last year, even getting up at (gak) 5 am to be at a toy store by 6 am...which was mobbed. Then I tried Best Buy...which was mobbed. And it turned out that the gifts on fabulous special were on sale a week later for cheaper at Target anyway. I used to do the day after Xmas sales but again, store patterns have changed. They seem to start marking down Xmas ornaments, wrap and cards (my usual targets) *before* the holiday now, maybe the week prior to Christmas. I also find that by the time Christmas is past, I just can't get the shopping urge to fire up anymore :). I'm shopped out-which is probably a shame as I know there are some great clearance things that go on sale then.

Okay that's my long winded contribution. Anyone else care to share?


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I do all my shopping online so it doesn't really matter when I do it.

I refuse to leave the house the day after Thanksgiving, no thanks, leave me out of that madness.

I usually have my shopping done the first week or two of December. I don't shop earlier because I'm buying for ALL adults who have the annoying habit of buying things they want for themselves, so we have a rule that after December 1 you can't buy yourself ANYTHING but groceries. :P So my shopping almost ALL happens after December 1st.

    Bookmark   November 19, 2004 at 12:00PM
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I find that, if I shop too early, I buy two presents.

We have the same ruleTandania does, only we start locking people out at Thanksgiving.

I like the bustle of shopping during Christmas time, w/ the crowds, and the stuff that's available then. It's fun! I feel like I'm part of something big, something exciting, something whispering and twinkling and a tiny bit rushed.

But, I don't have that much free time usually. So I do a lot of shopping online.

    Bookmark   November 19, 2004 at 12:21PM
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Very sparingly. LOL

Normally, I don't step foot in a store without knowing what I'm looking for. I'm not really a "browse around" type of shopper...I'm a get in, get what I need, and get out type of girl. I will spend more $$ to buy something quickly and in a comfortable (ie, not busy or bustling) environment just because it's worth it to me. If I see an item I've been waiting to buy on sale somewhere else at a higher price, I'll get it - saving the gas and frustration is totally worth the extra $$, IMO.

Making most of my gifts means I don't have to shop as much, which I like a lot. LOL This year I have a book I need to buy for a gift, and some little stocking stuffers for my mom (I've already bought the usual christmas coffee samples for it), and some small gifts like a gift cert. to the dog groomer for one of their dogs, cat and dog treats, maybe some candles or potpourri. Luckily most of the women in my family read, so books are always an option - I like bookstores, so that is an easy shopping trip (though I end up buying myself stuff too - expensive).

If I have to *buy* the gift, it will usually be something small from a smaller-type store, rather than something from department stores or mall stores. I try to keep bought gifts under $25 or so, but I try to get something the person will really like and appreciate, not just a "token" gift (which is why actually *shopping* drives me nuts LOL). Handmade gifts are a different story - I think nothing of spending $50 on yarn for an afghan or sweater, plus the time it takes to make. ;-)

I don't do much shopping online, really - just books if possible. But I don't buy for that many people, so it's really not necessary (there are about 10-11 people on my christmas gift list...that's it). When I do go to the stores, it's usually early Sat. morning or in the evenings...sometimes I'll take a half-day on a Friday or something to shop if need be, but I never shop the day after thanksgiving or those type days. I do shop after Christmas sales if I have the $$...normally they aren't too busy, and it's a great time to find stuff for next year. :-)

    Bookmark   November 19, 2004 at 12:58PM
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"If I see an item I've been waiting to buy on sale somewhere else at a higher price, I'll get it - saving the gas and frustration is totally worth the extra $$, IMO."

Excellent point Jamie. I struggle with this--I'm sooooo obsessed with getting the best price, I do sometimes end up spending too much of other resources, like time or energy or aggravation, in getting the lowest cost item. I've really had to train myself to think carefully. If I need X, and it's on sale but that means I have to, say, drive somewhere inconvenient at an inconvenient time...then it could well be worth it to buy it somewhere closer and more accessible even if I spend a little more.


    Bookmark   November 19, 2004 at 3:58PM
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Our master bedroom closet is "gift central headquarters".

1. When I buy a gift, it goes in a box in our closet.
2. I try to wrap it soon after it's purchased.
3. I keep all of our wrapping supplies in a garment bag in this closet, scissors and tape and all.
4. I have a notebook where I write down all the gifts and who they are for.
5. Once they get wrapped, they go in a bag which is stashed deep into the closet.

For our kids:
1. I have a page devoted in the notebook for each child.
2. As I wrap the gift, I write it down on the appropriate child's page and I number the gift.
3. I also write this number in the corner of the gift's gift tag. This is because I sometimes shop early, and I might forget what I bought. I match the number to that on my list for cross-reference.

I am being very practical this year, due to a tighter budget. In the past I had a tendency to just pick up gifts here and there, not really knowing who they'd go to. I don't do this anymore. I make a list ahead of time and stick to it, or close to it.

Tonight, for example, my BIL offered to take me to one of my favorite stores because he got an extra 30% off everything. I was SO tempted. But then I realized there was nothing at this store that was on my list. So I declined. It's amazing what tight finances will do!


    Bookmark   November 20, 2004 at 1:56AM
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If I am not done by Halloween, then I am stressed. I use the time between Halloween and Thanksgiving to finish shopping and take care of last minute details. After Thanksgiving I'm not doing anything for Christmas.

So here is my Christmas shopping Routine of sorts.

1. I keep a list of everyone I normally buy gifts for with their important information on hand- (collections, sizes, wishes they won't buy themselves etc).

2. I shop all year long. If I find something I want for someone and we can afford it (within the budget) I buy it. IF I am not sure if someone will like it, I wait and talk to my husband.

Agreed- I buy it early and do not worry about sales. If I have to fight crowds and stand in long lines, I won't do it. I'd rather pay more money than worry about running all over town at the last minute.

3. As I buy presents they go in a box in the shed. I make a note that I bought it. If I find just the most perfect gift but I already have one for that person- I often times just buy them two gifts. So what if someone gets two gifts one year. AND sometimes I can just save one gift and have that much of a jump start for next year.

That is about it- shop often, shop early, and be done with it. Enjoy the holidays without feeling I have to rush around at the last minute fighting crowds.

As for where I shop- online alot. I try to really compare prices online on gifts I'm thinking of getting. THen if I run across something on sale, I find it is often not much of a sale- I can buy it cheper online.


    Bookmark   November 20, 2004 at 2:54AM
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A few years back when all 4 kids were in college I did massive Thanksgiving weekend shopping. Just because they weren't going to be home til just a few days before Christmas.
On Friday (day after Thanksgiving) my DD and I would go out bright and early and buy anything that was in the early sales, then we headed for the mall or 2 or 3. We would finish her Christmas shopping that same day. Then late that afternoon, I'd head out to the mall with one of the boys and do all of his shopping.
On the next day, Saturday, I would take one boy shopping in the morning (whichever one I could shake out of bed) and take the third son Saturday afternoon. After all that shopping I would be exhausted, but done!!!
The kids would head back to their respective schools on Sunday and I would wrap like a madwoman.
They were all ways surprised at what the others got and I would all ways have a few "surprises" for each of them.
Kathy G in MI

    Bookmark   November 20, 2004 at 6:37PM
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I try to stay out of retail stores (even grocery stores and drugstores!) from now until the middle of January, so I do almost all my shopping online. Because I give books or audio CDs to almost everyone, this is pretty easy.

This year there is one person whom I'm giving a Target gift card. I bought it this afternoon while I happened to be in the store for regular shopping (the last time this year that I'll go there), but even those can be bought online.

    Bookmark   November 21, 2004 at 10:51PM
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I start THINKING Xmas in Aug. Gathering people's wish lists in Sept. & shopping in Oct. I do some shopping on-line or through catalogs or home shopping tv & some at discount stores like Target or specialty stores for specific gifts. I'm not much of a mall person. I NEVER go shopping on wknds - mostly during the day during the wk & sometimes at night but once Thanksgiving comes that's out too - too crowded. The problem is that I do overshop b/c I don't stop when I'm done - I shop until time runs out, although by Thanksgiving if something happened that I were not able to shop I'd be done with anyone that's important.


    Bookmark   March 10, 2005 at 9:50AM
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