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Christmas Countdown: Shopping!

How do you shop for Christmas? Is it a last minute frenzy, or do you plan next year's before this year's is even officially over?

Me, I fall somewhere in between.... I pick up a thing here & there throughout the year - IF I see something a certain someone might like, but I don't get serious until around now. In fact, the last few weeks have been spent encouraging the boys to circle what they would like from Santa in every catalog and flyer that hits the house ("so you don't forget when you go to write your letter"). Today was my second venture out with a Christmas mission, and I aim to have the bulk of my shopping done by the beginning of December.

What about you, though? What if you haven't started yet?

Never fear, here's a plan:

  • Stop into Sears outlet on the way home today - get at least one, preferably two toy catalogs. (Why 2? One for the kids to circle everything in, and one for you, as a resource. Also: if you have two kids, this will eliminate bickering when one wants to look at the Marvel Heroes page and the other has to study the Lego sets. Not that this ever happens in our house, of course! ;-). 
  • If you and the kids like to go online, even better! Combine an online toy search (i.e.: Toys R Us or Sears) with some spelling challenges by getting the children to type in the search words. Then, create a Pinterest account to track who wants what. (Pinterest is great by the way for filing everything you see online that you want to be able to reference. I find it better than bookmarking because you can "pin" an actual image along with the link, and a description.... no more guessing what you were thinking when you bookmarked ;-)
  • For children outside your own household: browse through Canadian Family, Today's Parent, Parents magazine, etc. while you are at the checkout sometime. Pretty much every parent-targeted magazine has a "Top Toy Picks 2011" issue out this month. Look over the suggestions for the age group of your recipient. It is a good starting point to get your brain thinking!
  • Review the flyers every week between now and Christmas! If you see something on your gift list, take note of when the sale starts, and aim to get to the store that day if possible. Don't pay full price for anything the children want - your dollar stretches farther if you take your time and buy it on sale. 
  • For those "must-have" items (the ones where you are afraid it will be gone if you wait): Well, I don't know about you, but I am not above buying it now, setting it aside, holding onto my receipt, and watching the flyers. If the store has an ad-match policy, I'll march in with a competitors better price for a refund on the difference. And, if not, then I will pick up the item at the store with the lower price and return the original to its store of purchase... maybe I'm "cheap", but it works for me ;-)
  • Plan at least one visit to a big-box store (Walmart, Zellars, Michaels, Sears, etc.) every week between now and Christmas. Why? Because there  are some things that folks will appreciate that never make it to the flyers, and you'll be surprised how many stocking stuffers you can pick up when you don't go in with a mission. Things just pop out at you!
  • Hold on to every receipt in an envelope in your purse. After each Holiday purchase, write the recipient's name on the receipt (or next to the item if there are multiple purchases at one store). Keep this until the end of January, just in case there is a return or an issue.
  • And, here's an idea if you have a lot of kids to shop for: go for one, simple idea (i.e.: Chapters or Toys R Us gift cards for everybody), then add a small personal touch (a book on a favourite topic for one, a mini Lego kit for the one who likes to build, paint by numbers kit for one who likes to do crafts, some nail polish or jewelry for the fashionista, etc.)
Stay tuned for some ideas for girls and boys in future posts ;-)

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