By Tracey Dowdy
It’s the most wonderful time of the year – unless you’re Secret Santa for someone you don’t know well, you’re buying for your mother in law who already has everything and asks for nothing or a child whose list is longer than a Harry Potter book.
According to research by Chase Card Services, 80% of Americans say the holidays stressed them out and nearly a third admit shopping for gifts is the primary reason. In a survey conducted by VitalSmarts, 47% said shopping for gifts stressed them out, and 50% said financial pressures we’re at the top of their Christmas list. And a third survey, this one by McKinsey & Company, reported that not knowing what to buy is the number one worry for shoppers entering the holiday season.
If you nodded your head to any or all of those statistics, these tips and tricks can help put the happy back in your Hannukah, the merry back in your Christmas, and bring light, happiness, and peace back to your Kwanza.
Make your list and check it twice. And three times. Maybe four…you get the picture. Unless your list is really short, don’t try to keep track of gifts in your head. Make a note on your phone, in an old school marble notebook, or use an app like Santa’s Bag, an app that allows you to organize your shopping and spending for each gift recipient. It’s password-protected so neither your partner nor your kids can sneak a peek.
If you’re struggling with gift ideas, do a little social media stalking – the good kind, like Santa does, not the kind that will get you arrested. A quick scroll through someone’s Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter may inspire you as you can easily see their hobbies, interests, and what they like to do for fun. Instead of a physical present, give an experience like museum or concert tickets, or donate to a charity they support in their name.
Be strategic. The key to surviving holiday shopping is to have a plan. Kevin Gallegos, Senior Vice President of Client Enrollment at Freedom Debt Relief says, “Map out what stores you plan to visit, what you plan on purchasing at each store, and in what order you plan to stop at each location.” Avoid marketing traps like grabbing the first thing you see when you walk in the door. Those are designed to catch your eye, cause impulse shopping, and make sure the retailer gets the better end of whatever deal they’re advertising.
The old adage, “You have to spend money to make money,” wasn’t meant for Christmas shopping, but it kind of works in this situation. install browser extensions like Honey and RetailMeNot Genie before you even start shopping. Both automatically apply any applicable coupons and discounts at checkout, no more scouring the internet for coupon codes and deals.
If Amazon Prime has spoiled you and the thought of paying for shipping makes you cringe, hang on to your cart until December 14th for Free Shipping Day. Both big-box stores and smaller retailers will offer free shipping and guarantee your gifts will arrive by Christmas Eve. So, if you can wait, sit tight.
Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.