If you are anything like the rest of us, you probably leave your holiday shopping to the last minute. It's not that you mean to, or plan it that way. It just happens! Maybe you are a champion procrastinator, or maybe you are such a perfectionist that you simply have been waiting to find the perfect gifts for everyone on your list.
Or perhaps you genuinely didn't have time before this. If you work full-time, finding the time to do holiday shopping in August or September doesn't seem like a priority...and then before you know it, it's December!
Whatever way it happened that you are doing your holiday gift shopping late in the year, holiday shopping at the last minute is surely a recipe for tension and stress. Add to that the fact that you are worried about spending too much money. You are on a holiday shopping budget, but you know that you can't afford to waste time either.
How do you find the holiday gifts you want for friends and family at the last moment, without spending a bundle on Christmas or Hanukah gifts? Here are five tips to help you stay sane and save money while you do your last-minute gift shopping this holiday season.
1. Don't Second-Guess Yourself.
When you're already stressed, it can be easy to second guess every possible gift choice. You care about your friends and family and want them to be pleased with your presents. Paradoxically, the fact that you've left it till so late in the year makes you feel like you now have to make the best choice...the first thing you see can't possibly be good enough, can it? Of course it can. Think about it: will your mom really care whether you give her the book she mentioned or the sweater you think suits her perfectly? Just pick one; she will appreciate the thought, and nobody is going to know what the other choices were anyway!
The minute you run across a gift you think the person will like, buy it right away. Then you can cross it off your list, which feels great. There's no point continuing to look "in case you find something better." Just do it, be decisive!
2. Use the Internet.
Don't tell me you're still running to the mall to do your last minute Christmas or Kwanzaa gift shopping. That is so last century! Every single reputable store these days has a website. You can order any gift online. If you know exactly what you want, that makes it really easy: just go to the website and type in the item into the search box. You can also browse websites to do your shopping for the holidays. Most merchants are taking advantage of the holiday season, and they will make it really easy for you by posting "Top 10 Christmas Gifts" or "Best Holiday Gifts for Girls" and similar articles or lists. This helps you with ideas and saves you time.
Guess what - you will also save money by shopping for holiday gifts online! This is because many merchants are offering free shipping at this time of year. Sometimes you have to spend a certain amount to meet the free shipping requirements, but that's not often hard to do. For example, Amazon is famous for great holiday deals and often has free shipping on most holiday items.
3. Don't Do it All Yourself.
You do not have to buy every single gift yourself. You can share the task of holiday shopping with your relatives and friends. For example, you and your sister could team up to buy your dad an especially nice joint gift, like a speed camera detector, flat-screen TV or new iPod. Then only one of you has to do the actual purchase. Again, just order it online if you can.
Plus, you can get your kids involved if they're old enough. Send them to the mall with a shopping list and promise them extra spending money for themselves if they get the job done! Imagine what a weight off your shoulders that will be. Plus, by skipping the mall yourself, you will not be tempted to hit the food court, and you will avoid gaining weight this holiday season.
4. Take It Slow.
It may seem counter-intuitive to say slow down when you are in a rush, but just because you feel busy doesn't mean you are actually accomplishing anything productive. Make sure to plan for breaks, and take a rest if you feel yourself getting overwhelmed. If it's taking you hours to accomplish anything, you are probably exhausted and are not in the best shape to make decisions. Remember if worst comes to worst you can always give everyone gift cards to their favorite store, so it's not the end of the world if you run out of time and can't finish your holiday shopping the way you wanted to.
5. Be Nice to People.
Don't take it out on other people just because you are feeling stressed! Isn't it funny that Christmas is the time of year we are supposed to be kind to others, yet it's also when people are particularly nasty to each other? I'm sure everyone has witnessed two strangers fighting over the last cheap Kindle on the rack, or someone yelling at the poor clerk who is doing everything possible to help. A smile will get you a long way. If you make a little joke with someone while standing in a long line, you will both feel better. You will have more energy and suddenly things will seem manageable. If you ask the shop assistant for help and tell a little story about how you left your holiday shopping so late this year, before you know it they will be sympathizing with you and perhaps sharing some great ideas, or looking in the back room for you to find that last snow helmet your son desperately wanted.
Follow these five tips to save money and get your last minute holiday shopping done on time. If you are still feeling stressed, take a deep breath and remember - you only have to live through this once a year. Happy holidays!