Naughty and Nice 2017 #3: Shopping

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Few are spared the horrors of holiday shopping. Even if you, your friends, your coworkers and your family aren’t in one of the many religions and cultures that feature gift-giving in December, you’re still going to run into everybody else when you make supply runs.

So, like the sign says, BUY. But please BUY effectively. To help you do that, take in these tips from some experienced holiday shopping survivors.

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1. Start shopping early

I’ve seen plenty of people on my Facebook feed this year talking about how relieved they are that they purchased everything they wanted in October. Unless you’re buying something rare (which isn’t the case in most cases), those people also spent more than they had to. There are always more sales down the line, which is one of the key reasons why people wait; it’s not always due to holding shopping off until the last minute. Buying everything early is nothing to brag about.

2. Buy cheap stuff at some store full of bootlegs

Seriously, don’t do this, even for kids. Children are smarter than you might think, and they’ll know what’s authentic and what isn’t; if they don’t, they’ll realize how bootleg it is down the line if they don’t immediately, particularly if someone tells them. You will forever be known as the biggest cheapskate someone knows if you do this, though they likely won’t say it to their face. All of this goes double if you’re doing it for an adult.

3. Buy rare stuff from stores to sell it later

Hey, don’t be one of those jerks who buys rare or potentially rare toys and electronics just so they can sell it later for twice the price or more. Chances are, there are a lot of kids counting on having some of those under the tree for Christmas, and too many people like to prey on that desire by selling them for high prices to anyone desperate for them. You might feel good after getting more money, but plenty of other people will think you’re a jerk — including people you know. Just think about that.

1. Start planning early:


Don’t misinterpret this for shopping early, which I’m not recommending for good reason (check the “Naughty” section). However, you should at least plan your shopping goals early. Map out the gifts you’re getting for specific special people you know, and where you’re going to buy them. You don’t want to be caught off guard too late, and not know what to buy for family and friends mere weeks (like, you know, this very moment) before Christmas, or you’re in for a “fun” time.

2. Be careful with your budget

This should go without saying along with planning early, but watch your wallet and bank account, because you don’t want to spend too much. If you’re spending money on an expensive item for one particular person, this is the time to ask whether you really love them, especially if they’re not a family member. Not to say you shouldn’t get them something, of course. But you don’t want to start 2018 off by staring into the pits of despair because you don’t have enough to pay your bills, or buy other necessities.

3. Buy people you know shrink-wrapped games

Buying someone a physical game for Christmas? You shouldn’t buy them a used copy, unless you’re getting it from someone you know. It’s tough to tell which stores you purchase used titles from take care of their goods, or have employees who thoroughly checked discs for possible damage, unless you shop there very often. You also may not want to purchase a new copy of a game from GameStop, since you might get a display copy which may or may not have been used by an employee.

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1. Hitting the mall last minute

I mentioned this last year, but it’s worth mentioning again. This year Christmas falls on a Monday, so it may be tempting to do ALL your shopping on the final weekend. Lots of people have the same idea or may be trying to squeeze out whatever last minute deals they can. For your sanity, health, and perhaps safety, this IS NOT a good idea. Retailers are generally crowded, lines are long, and good cheer is in short supply as people sprint to the end of Christmas. Don’t procrastinate, but do plan!

2. Budget? What’s that?

Christmas is expensive. Even if you’re not hurting for cash, it is a good idea to create and stick to a budget. You may want to buy gifts for everyone you like, but if you don’t have a budget you could find all of your spare cash going toward presents, or worse, end up with a huge credit card bill in January. One way to avoid this pain is to plan and budget. It may be too late for this year, however next year is always fair game. Some quick tips include creating categories for your Christmas budgets, making a list of people you want to buy gifts for, keeping track of your spending, and (gasp!) planning ahead with a Christmas fund. If you want to avoid the naughty path, check out this article for lots of useful budget tips.

3. Amazon Prime is Not Your Savior

Don’t, don’t, don’t wait until a few days before Christmas to start buying lots of stuff online. Similar to waiting until the last minute to go shopping, this tidbit of advice covers online shipping. Amazon Prime may have same day delivery, but the system isn’t foolproof especially during the holidays. The risk that something could go wrong is high. The delivery infrastructure is stressed to the max during the holidays, even as companies frantically hire extra help and offer extreme overtime to existing employees. Sometimes the volume is too much to keep up with, acts of God can happen, or your package could be lost in the crush of volume. Even if you take shipper delivery deadlines into account and the package arrives before Christmas, you’re still paying out the nose. (Full disclosure: I am an employee of UPS.)

1. Gift Cards Away

Fun fact: A few years ago I told my mother that I prefer gift cards or cash as a Christmas present. She then called me “cold-hearted.” Whatever the temperature of my heart might be, gift cards (or cash) are the way to go for holiday giving and economists agree! Just imagine all the time and effort you put into finding what you hope is the right gift for someone, and ultimately they don’t like the gift and ask for the return receipt. If they keep the gift, they never use it, or regift it to some poor soul, maybe you! That money could have been better spent giving the person a gift card or simple cash. Yes, you can’t really wrap it and it doesn’t look nice under a tree, but trust me, if you want to be nice consider these options.

2. Just Ask!

So I JUST mentioned why gift cards (or cash) are the way to go for presents. However, you may be stuck with someone who absolutely hates gift cards or cash as a present. Or you may abhor the thought of giving such a present yourself. For those people, you are better off just asking them what they want. Someone out there may find it crass to do so, but why waste your money on a gift they won’t like? If you ask and they say, “I don’t know,” keep pressing them. Remind them that you want to give them a gift they like. Eventually your persistence will wear them down. Alternatively, you could take note of things they’re interested in throughout the year. This might work as long as they don’t buy said item for themselves first.

3. Plan Ahead, Buy Ahead

Okay, so you’ve made your budget for the year and you know who you’re going to get gifts for (or you’re going the gift card route). Now you just need to plan ahead and perhaps buy ahead. Like the budgeting advice, this advice might be too late to help this season. So if you want to get a jump on next year, start the day after Christmas. There are sales worth considering if you want to start early. Also, look for sales on items you may be interested in throughout the year. Keep track of your gift recipients by making a list or putting name tags on the presents. If you just plan to do gift cards, keep an eye for sales on these cards (though they are rare) and it may be best to just start saving your money to buy early. Fortunately, gift cards don’t expire. See WikiHow for a complete list.

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