A Head Start on Holiday Shopping

Using technology and proper planning to get shopping out of the way

Perhaps I’m jumping the gun covering the topic of holiday shopping in early November.  But since the winter weather has already hit us with its first punch, I figure it’s time to get a head start on the holiday season too.

There are huge advantages to shopping early.  One is avoiding the December chaos and constant crowds at every mall.  After you’ve already finished shopping, driving by a packed parking lot instead of fighting for a spot comes with a certain smug sense of pride.  Starting early also takes the edge off the inevitable budget strain of the season.  Spending money over a number of months is much less painful than dropping it all at once.  And when everyone is still cramming in their shopping the week before Christmas, those of us who were done earlier have time to actually relax and enjoy this wonderful season with our families.

Before I start shopping, I start planning. My go-to list tracker is a basic Excel spreadsheet that I have tweaked over the years.  But in this smart phone age there are a number of apps that can help you while you’re out and about, including Better Christmas List. This app allows you to create your list of people to shop for, track their gifts, how much you spent, and even whether or not the gifts are wrapped. And you always have it at your fingertips.

Go to the internet. Again I ask, what did people do before the World Wide Web?  I wonder why there are still so many people out at stores during the holidays, competing with the throngs of shoppers, unbearable traffic, and long lines, when it’s so much easier to just click the mouse. Almost anything can be purchased online these days. And as long as you give yourself enough time, the gifts arrive right at your doorstep before the big day.

Now that we have a son, he has a wish list of his own. Amazon.com allows you to create multiple wish lists under your account, so you can keep one for yourself, your kids, and anyone else you have in mind.  As you browse, simply click “Add to wish list.” It’s a quick and easy way to generate ideas for all your friends and family. You can also make the list public, so if anyone needs ideas for gifts for your kids (or for you), they can find them with a simple search.

Amazon also has a membership program called Amazon Prime for $79 a year. This gets you free two-day shipping on all your items year round, plus other benefits.  Need a last minute gift? Prime members can have it shipped overnight for just $3.99. You can also ship directly to out-of-towners. It’s a gift to yourself to use the rest of the year as well, especially for those of us that do quite a bit of online shopping.

Although Thanksgiving is not even upon us yet, the holiday shopping season most definitely is. No matter how big or small your list and budget, planning ahead can make this season easier and more enjoyable for everyone.


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