Around this time of year the Game of Diapers gets a little more intense. While the holiday season is fun and festive it can also be stressful and full of headaches. This series will give you some helpful tips and tricks for not only surviving your holidays but winning the game.
It seems every person I know has a different method for Christmas shopping. Some shop early, some shop last-minute, some wait for sales, some don’t care about price. Last Christmas the twins were coming and I was the size of a house so I started having to implement some best practices. This routine continues this year since I now have to do all my shopping (I have a big list) with three kids, 3 and under, and I am going back to work full-time in December on top of it all! But I will get through and so will you. Here’s how.
1. Start Early. No, I don’t mean that you should be one of those people who starts shopping in July, but definitely once Halloween has come and gone its time to think about presents. This will benefit you in so many ways. Without thinking ahead some of the other tips are not possible. Not to mention the relief that comes from having it done. You can actually enjoy some of the holidays. I love turning on the news and seeing the malls just inundated with people as I relax on the sofa with everything finished.
2. Apps. You’ve got a problem, they’ve got an app. There are plenty of Christmas shopping apps to choose from for both Apple and Android platforms. They allow you to track your purchases, make budgets, give you gift ideas and more. Since they run on your smartphone you will always have your information with you when you need it.
3. Shop Online. I can’t recommend this enough. It has now been over ten years since that first Christmas where I decided to do most of my purchasing online, and believe me, it’s a lot easier now and the options are virtually limitless. It’s so easy to hop on the computer once the kids are in bed, or on your break at work and get all your shopping done quickly and easily. The caveats are that you do need to start earlier so you can leave enough time for shipping (oh I have an apple shipping story that literally left me in knots up to TWO days before Christmas, when I ordered with enough time, darned engraved IPOD!) As an added bonus, most companies wave shipping fees around the holidays so you don’t have to worry about extra charges.
You will need to have a credit card of some sort, which I know not everyone has. The good news is, if you don’t you can buy a prepaid credit card, like a Visa and use that instead. Finally, make sure you are signed up for the email lists of all your favourite stores ahead of time. Then they will let you know when they are having sales, so you don’t have to do any of the legwork. Just this weekend I got an email from Old Navy, everything 30% off and I knew it was time to do some shopping.
4. Consider Charitable Donations. This is the gift that gives twice. There are lots of great charities that you can donate to in people’s names, and again, you can do it by phone or on the computer. Think about options like a Princess Margaret Home Lottery ticket, where they have a chance to win, and you get to help fund cancer research.
5. Consider Secret Santa If you have a big family that would require a lot of shopping you could discuss doing a secret Santa where you only buy a gift for one person but it is a much bigger gift. That can really lighten the load and allows people to ask for bigger ticket items.
6. Consider Going Halvsies Or Quartersies. For many years I have split family gifts with my brother. Not only does this cut your costs in half, it cuts your shopping in half too.
7. There’s Nothing Wrong With Predictable. Yes, gift cards, lotto tickets, bottles of wine and chocolate lack imagination, and yet they are still things that are always appreciated. I love finding a gift card in my wallet when I am low on money and could use a pick me up. I remember when I was younger, if you wanted a gift card you actually had to go to that store to get it, necessitating trips to the mall. Today, you can get a wide variety of gift cards for everything from The Gap to Groupon all at your local pharmacy or grocery store.
8. Enlist Help. If you can pull in a favour and get someone to babysit while you go shopping. Two years ago I took a random vacation day so that I still had babysitting (aka. mom and dad) that day and I was able to go and get my shopping done.
9. Shop During Off Hours. Some stores stay open late or even all night around Christmas. I remember going Christmas shopping at Walmart at 5:30am in the morning before I started work at 7am. Many Shopper’s Drug Mart stores are open all night and they also have a wide variety of gifting options.
10. Be Prepared! If you do have to go out with everyone (like I did today) make sure to plan ahead.
- Take food, water, bottles, toys, diapers, and what ever else you think you might need.
- Take the big stroller so you have room for parcels underneath.
- Know what you want to buy and what stores you are going to buy in so there is no aimless wandering (kids hate that). Plus, you need to be present so you can keep an eye on your kids, not distracted in deep thought about whether your cousin needs a medium or a large.
- If you have to bribery can also help (with my son if he is good he gets to ride on the carousel. One dollar is a fair price to pay for sanity).
- If your children are young you can also try to take advantage of nap time, its amazing how kids can sleep through all the noise, lights and hustle and bustle of shopping.
- Finally, I would recommend heading to the mall if possible. That way once you are in, you can hit all the stores. Those big box store plazas are not good because you have to continually go outside in the cold. What’s even harder is driving around the city from store to store. You will be exhausted from getting all the kids in and out of the car ten times., and washrooms will not be easily at hand.
Yes, I know, Christmas is all about giving and spirit and not about commercialism. In fact, I am one of those people who only believed in giving really thoughtful, surprise gifts. But, there comes a time when you realize you just don’t have the time to sweat the small stuff. I know I’d rather spend time decorating with the twins or making Christmas cards with my son that panicking at a shopping mall.
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