stress-free xmas shopping

Shopping Frenzy
Diana Ong


Well, since it’s looking bleak and horrible Christmassy out today we might as well start thinking about the upcoming capital expenditure festive season. I don’t know about your neck of the woods, but in these parts, the day after Halloween (this Saturday) is the official start of Christmas Shopping Frenzy.

Halloween crap disappears from store shelves with lightening speed to be replaced with equal rapidity by Christmas crap. Decorations go up, canned carols echo through malls, the round of office parties begins, craft shows abound, the school pagents start getting thrown together and the shopping revs into fifth gear. All the gates of hell open up and we get sucked into the fiery vortex of Christmas shopping anguish, torment and lamentations…

make a list I need a list where’s my list I need 25 gifts and I only have 23 what do I get dad there aren’t enough tickle me woody allen dolls they’re all sold out sally will be so disappointed christmas is ruined my visa’s all maxed out I have no more money christmas is ruined I only spent $500 on billy and $550 on all the other kids I need another gift what about dinner who’s coming for dinner I need to shop for food are the stores open late I can’t find batteries where do I park the lot is full I don’t have enough wrapping paper the bows don’t match our decorations are out of style we can’t find a tree the trees are too expensive should we go for artificial  christmas is ruined I don’t have time to decorate when will we put the rudolph on our roof I need to find something for the secret santa party for the office I have two holiday concerts to go to in one night what do I do I have no time i haven’t done my baking yet christmas is ruined i have 12 parties to go to and nothing to wear first thing new year’s i do on a diet how many teachers do I have to get mugs for this year what about the hockey coach does he get a gift the mailman the garbage guy my hairdresser the boss my secretary

Of course some people enjoy this. If you do, go for it. Knock yourself out.

I don’t.

If you don’t, here’s one word of advice: Internet

Yes, for the last five years or so I’ve done all my Christmas shopping on the Internet. I sort of phased it in during the five years or so before that; buying some gifts online and some in person. I know it’s nice to touch stuff, see what it really looks like, try it out, smell it, check it over, etc., etc. But, weighed against the freedom from mall horror shows, I can live without it.

Pretty much everything is available online. Most of it can be shipped to you or anywhere else you want it to go within a couple of days. And most places ship free if you order enough. Or you can pick it up yourself if the store is in your area. And, you’ve still got time to check things out and return them if it’s not exactly what you wanted.

No lines, no crowds, no traffic snarls, no parking problems, no weather issues, no impulse shopping and you can do it all in your pajamas in front of your fireplace with a steaming mug or sparkling glass of something holidayish in one hand.

They even gift wrap if you want, so you can be just as surprised on Christmas morning as the person receiving the gift.

Best things to buy via Internet? Books, magazine subscriptions, toys, electronics, hard to find/rare/unusual gifts, personalized stuff, gift certificates – anything really.

I know, you’re thinking it sounds so impersonal, right? Well, Christmas is kind of an obligatory, generic, gift-giving time anyway. It’s mandatory to buy a gift or gifts for certain people in your life at that particular time. That already makes it impersonal in my books. Also, going insane is not my idea of a fun time and most of the Christmasmaniacs I know are more or less insane by December 25th.

So, I try to keep myself out of most of the craziness and save my personal shopping for other times when I’m relaxed and maybe happen upon something I think someone might like and am thinking only about that particular person and not ticking them off a list of dozens of other people I have to buy for.

Happy shopping!


28 responses to “stress-free xmas shopping

  1. I agree wholeheartedly, internet is the way to go. But I do have one correction to make: here in confused jolly old Edinburgh, the Christmas crap is already in the shops, jostling cheek by jowl with the Halloween crap. If we celebrated Thanksgiving here, I think I might actually cry.

  2. We’ve been doing the internet thing for years. This year, though, we discovered an even better and easier solution for us for part of our shopping.

    We’ve been paying for almost everything with our credit card, which we then end up paying off each month. With the reward points, we’ve been able to get some nice gift cards for our daughters and their significant others, which they’ve told us they actually prefer. Now all we have to do is find gifts for each other and the two grandkids. We’re halfway done and haven’t even started.

    Kind of ironic — after all of these years of paying on credit card debt, now we’re earning by keeping the one we use paid off and by using it on a very regular basis.

  3. A&J – I know, eh? It’s so easy and fun compared to dragging your ass out to fight the crowds.

    Loth – You don’t have Thanksgiving? Ya, I guess Pilgrims never landed on your shores and ate squash with the natives. Thanksgiving isn’t a big deal in Canada like it is in the US. I don’t know how we’ve managed to avoid commercializing the hell out of that one — someone’s missed the boat somewhere along the line.

    Mike – I get cash back once a year on my credit card – a percentage of what I spend, so I use it a lot, pay it off every month and every July I get a nice bonus in my bank account. I don’t know how old your grandkids are, but Amazon and Toys R Us have great online options.

  4. Here in The States, the official Christmas-buying season starts the day after Thanksgiving (This year the massive sales of Black Friday are on 11/28…). But, every year, all the holidays start to smoosh together and seem to come earlier and earlier. My hubby and I joke that soon, it will be, “Happy HallowThanksIsmas!”

    I’m all about a list. My hubby and I write ideas on the list all year and then come October, we start purchasing and checking things off. We also stick with a realistic budget per-person, and we budget for the holidays in general, so there aren’t usually any surprises. (Well, of course there are *surprises*!! That’s the fun part! 😉 I meant there are no unexpected bills…)

    We do a pretty fair mixture of hands-on and online shopping, and it works for us! 🙂

  5. I am all about the internet shopping. Almost everyone in my family gets CDs, books, or toys for Christmas. Other favourites include the Tupperware site, Lee Valley (excellent for any gardeners or tough-to-buy-for adult men who like gadgets), and Ashton Green (lots of fancy kitchen gadgets for the adult women you need to buy for).

    And of course, this year I am all about Etsy. It’s a site where you can buy lovely handcrafted items from sellers across the globe. I found it to be a great place to buy unique, lovely, and special handbags, jewelry, scarves, throw pillows, art, cute little boxes, and handmade toys for everyone on my list. I even ordered my Christmas cards and my mailing labels from Etsy!

  6. EXACTLY! I have done all my shopping on the internet for a few years now as well – ZERO STRESS. I think I end up spending more though, since it’s so easy and I can spend hours and hours browsing and finding more “perfect!!” things for the people I’ve already bought perfect things for. I love giving gifts. I’m a great friend! I’m a HORRIBLE ACCOUNTANT.

    I need me a Tickle Me Woody Allen doll BAD. Someone, somewhere put this on a Christmas list for me STAT.

  7. CP – I sort of suspected the Christmas madness was held at bay a bit in the US because of the Thanksgiving madness. You’re so organized! I’m surprised you don’t actually buy gifts all year long when they’re on sale. I know lots of people who do that. If there’s a good deal on blenders in July at Costco, they’ll buy half a dozen and then come Christmas everyone gets a blender. Ah, the magic of Christmas.

    Lynn – Thanks for including those excellent sites. I should have done that myself. Especially Etsy!! How could I have forgotten to plug Etsy?? Perfect opportunity totally, totally missed.

    Lesley – You’re far too old to tickle the Woodster. But I’m sooo glad I’m your friend now. I shall look forward to a truckload of perfect gifts coming my way soon. Wooo-hooo!

  8. Internet shopping all the way baby. And cheques! My kids are at an age now, they LOVE cheques. I have also signifcantly reduced the number of people I give gifts to. My kids, the Urbane Lion, my parents, and sometimes my brothers. That is it!

    The above makes for a far less stressful, and way less expensive, Christmas season.

    I wish they would at least wait until Remembrance Day is over before they start playing Christmas music in the malls!

  9. XUP, it’s funny you mention buying all year round…most of our birthdays (in my extended family) are spaced out throughout the year, so I feel like I’m buying something for someone all the time. 😉 [Granted, Claire’s bday is at the end of November, so she doesn’t quite fit into that pattern…]

    One of my sisters buys presents throughout the year for everyone and secrets them away for the holidays, but she tends to go overboard when it comes to her own niece, Claire. Claire will get random presents from that particular Aunt when my sister realizes that she’s picked out too many cute girly things. “Happy Spring!” and “Merry Summer!” gifts arrive every now and then.

    Of course, I buy for her FOUR boys, and she buys for my ONE girl, so I guess it all evens out. 🙂

  10. Bah humbug. Stores, online, who cares? I just refuse to buy for anyone and then if I get anything at all I’m ahead. If anyone complains I tell them they were bad and Santa didn’t get them anything.

  11. I’ve made it even easier on myself. For each family unit, I buy fruit (Harry & David) or candy (River Street Sweets in Savannah, GA). This way, everyone gets something they like [unless they’re the odd person who dislikes fruit/candy], and I don’t have to think about what each individual wants. Initially, I felt bad about being so insensitive, but when my sister emailed me with stories of the pecan log she had received, I knew I had made the right choice.

  12. In our parts, they have the Christmas stuff up at the mall already. WTF? I love the Christmas season, but not when it starts in July.

    Last year was the first year I HAD to buy almost everything online. From November through the end of February I work late and don’t even get out for lunch, so there’s so little time for shopping. No chance in hell I’d hit the mall on a weekend. I can’t believe I didn’t do more online shopping before. So much easier. Done. Sephora? Done. Gift certificates? Easy. Throw in a little sumthin’ sumthin’ for myself and all is right with the world. Unless there’s a specific specialty store that I can’t find online, I won’t set foot in a mall from November until January ever again.

    (Of course, sometimes it IS nice to wander through the mall and hear the music and see all the decorations.)

  13. Panther – Cheques? Haven’t seen those in a while. I guess they live somewhere far off? We’ve cut down on the gift buying, too. The sisters-in-law all decided to stop buying each others’ kids gifts which was a huge relief.

    Violetsky – Ah, yes, the art & craft shows. I’d love to get art. I do love getting art. It’s sometimes easier to fall in love with art someone else gave you than to go out and try to fall in love with art to buy for yourself.

    CP – Ha – I ‘ve 5 nephews, too. Mine is the only girl in the clan so she used to reap the rewards of the girl-shopping impulse among the other family members. Now she just wants money.

    Bandobras -That’s the spirit. It’s far better to receive than to give.

    Brad – Oh ya – there’s nothing better than a bushel of old fruit or vacuum packed Christmas candy. Hey, have you ever thought of giving candied fruit? I love that stuff.

    Jobthingy – This is when working retail gets really fun, I’ll bet.

    Mo – I’m sorry, I don’t think it’s ever nice to wander through a mall. Downtown is so much prettier with snow and music and decorations or even driving through neighbourhoods that take their Christmas seriously.

  14. XUP, you are SO RIGHT about online shopping! Even if I have to pay a little more, it’s worth it for the convenience of not having to go out in that madness. What I will never understand are the people who get up at 4am on Black Friday to stand in line to get something or other on sale. UGH!! No amount of money would get me out of my warm bed in the middle of the night to stand in line in the dark with a bunch of frantic Christmas shopping freaks.

  15. Heidilou – What is this Black Friday you Americans speak of? Ya’ll go shopping in the middle of the night? When is it? We sometimes have midnight madness sales, but that only means the stores are open until midnight. Please elaborate.

  16. i’ve been buying a few things off kijiji for the girls – they don’t care about “gently used” and i’m saving a fortune…

    i think i will use the internet a little more this year, but i just bought jo something online for his birthday and had to pay UPS $40 COD!!!!! am i a green internet shopper? is this normal???

  17. Yes, Christmas starts in the U.S. as the (now Macy’s, but first Gimbels, who department store which originally sponsored it, starting in 1920) Thanksgiving Day Parade ends …with Santa. It’s very much by design, and you can thank Macy’s – and their intense rivalry with Gimbels – for continuing the traditional kick-off to the Amercian Christmas shopping season since then.
    However, I’ve seen Christmas stuff as early as the second weekend in October here in Canada, because, of course, we have our Thanksgiving on the first Monday of that month.

  18. Black Friday is the day all retail in the U.S. uses to start to get them back ‘into the black’.
    Actually, Black Friday originated in Philadelphia in reference to the heavy traffic on that day. More recently, however, merchants have used it to instead refer to the beginning of the period in which retailers are in the black.
    It’s the Friday after Thanksgiving. Remember, America always celebrates Thanksgiving on a Thursday (which means Black Friday could fall anywhere between the 23rd and 29th of November).

  19. I’ve decided to let everyone think I went mad this year–which isn’t a stretch–and I’m making everyone lanyard keychains that I will wrap with lovely paper. I understand my Aunt Joan so much better now–she wasn’t dotty, just cheap and over it.

  20. I solved my problem. I don’t give gifts lol I give money to my niece for the kids, to my nephew for his daughter and nothing to my brothers/mother. We decided a long time ago not to exchange gifts but to give to the kids.

    My cat however, is quite the finicky gift recipient. She likes shoes, clothes, iPod, running stuff lol but I have to say that she’s also very generous with me. She gave me a TV last year!

    The very few friends who get something that is either handmade or a little something I know they will like but really, I don’t go into deep despair to find it.

    Works for me. I don’t decorate, stopped sending cards eons ago, that season has stopped being a chore years and years ago. It’s not that I don’t like it, I just can’t stand the commercialism of it. Turns me right off.

  21. The bulk of my Christmas shopping list is for people who are out of state. Online shopping cuts out all the long lines at the post office to send stuff and I love it. I’ve been doing it for years. And it’s a fun way to find odd and interesting things.

  22. Meanie – $40?? Yikes. I assume this was something from the US? I try to avoid buying from the US for that very reason. You never know when Customs will decide this is something they should be getting a chunk of. Also you really have to read the fine print for shipping costs. Some of them are quite high because they try to encourage you to buy more by offering free shipping over a certain amount. So, generally stick to well-known sites (Amazon, Etsy, the major stores – like Lynn notes above). If you’re buying on e-bay use the Canadian site and check the vendor’s stats. Wherever you’re buying from there should be a phone number on the site so you can call with questions (like, am I going to be dinged by Customs?) and they should have a secure payment option (i.e.: PayPal). That’s pretty much all I know. I’m sure there’s some good info on the internet on how to shop on the internet, too.

    JB – Well, aren’t you the little expert on all things American?? Thanks. Why do they have to get up in the middle of the night to shop? Do the stores open at midnight or something?

    Deb – I like theme gifts. One year I gave everyone black socks. Some people just got a couple pair, some got a whole box full, some got tights, some got a variety, some got just plain. You can never have enough black socks… or lanyard key chains.

    UA – Good for you. If everyone got into that, we’d actually maybe start to have nice Christmases again. Can you imagine? People just spend their holidays visiting and enjoying each others’ company, having a few nice meals together, some drinks, perhaps exchanging a trinket or two if it takes their fancy and just generally relaxing over those two weeks to get their minds and bodies ready for the winter ahead. Which is what that soltice season was all about in days of yore.

    Lesley – Yay, yay, yay!!! You ARE a generous friend. And we’ve never even met. I can’t even imagine what your actual friends will be getting… A MANSION AND A YACHT for MO!!! A SMALL SOUTH PACIFIC ISLAND for Chris!!! And the Porcupine gets…. gets…. Rawanda!!! Wooo hooo for Lesley. But seriously, a trip down to meet you tiny, young, big-breasted California gals is just what this old, frozen, small, but perky-breasted Canadian needs. I’ll have to see what I can do.

    Geewits – I know. There is so much crazy stuff available for sale out there. I found a perfume I used to love that no store sells anymore, but the original producer/manufacturer of the stuff still makes and sells online. I was giddy with excitement ‘cuz I’ve never found anything else I wanted to spray myself with and smell like all day. You’ve got a lot more options in the US, too. Canada is a little slow on the internet uptake. We could, of course, buy from the US, but it ends up costing a lot sometimes with shipping and surprise Customs fees that you have no way of knowing about until you get the bill — afterwards. We’re okay with most of the bigger companies, but the little quirky places can be iffy.

  23. Actually, yes, many of the stores open at 5am. Nutty.
    Some may actually open for ‘midnight madness’ as Friday begins, but I can’t say that for sure. That would certainly cut into a few Thanksgiving celebrations, though – to have to work those hours.

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