Photo: © Milkos - iStock
Shopping for the holidays can turn the most wonderful time of the year into the most stressful time. But a little planning and creativity can turn the season's most dreaded task into a bearable (even a pleasant) one.
Do Your Homework
Months before the start of the holiday season, compile a list of the people in your life you need to buy gifts for. When your loved ones start dropping hints about electronics they would love to own or start admiring a sweater in the store window, you can make note and start your shopping early.
Decide how much money you want to spend this holiday season, and divide that amount among the people on your list. Be sure to leave some of your budget for those holiday extras that take so many people by surprise, like holiday dinners and clothes for work parties. Once you have your budget set, stick to it. Check the app store for apps that will comparison shop for you, and sign up for your local retailers' e-newsletters—insiders will often get access to sales and coupons not offered to the public. And when you're shopping—whether online or in person—keep your focus. Buy only what's on your list, and avoid the holiday displays and Instagram feeds meant to tempt you into breaking your budget.
Personalize Gift Cards
Gift cards remain a popular present. Not only are they easy but also they suit all ages, budgets, and tastes. But they can seem impersonal, especially when you tuck one into an envelope and hand it over at the holiday party. To personalize a gift card, include a small extra present with it. Tuck a gift certificate for a movie pass for two into a tin of gourmet popcorn, or wrap a gift card for a clothing store in a scarf.
Skip the Presents
Do your children really need yet another gaming console? When the kids can't figure out what they want, skip the stores and give them an experience instead. A day's adventure can cost less than the newest electronic gadget, and it will still be remembered even when the gaming console is collecting dust in the basement. For a sports enthusiast, try a day's pass on a ski slope. A daredevil would love a trip to a treetop obstacle course. And if you have a teenager into culture, take them into the city for a tour of a museum and dinner at a high-end restaurant. Wrap up a lift ticket, a flyer for the adventure park, or a museum brochure to hint at what's to come.