You know I love to shop.
You know I love to give gifts.
So, it would stand to reason that winter holiday season is the most excellent time of the year for me.
Thing is, I hate crowds. I hate shopping with the newbies and the novices (and, heaven forfend, the shoppers who shop as professionally as I do). I hate the marketing machinery which turns us all into static-charged lemmings, running headlong for the cliff of unnecessary debt.
First rule of shopping Krissie-style (and, in case you have been wondering, Krissie is indeed my princess alter ego) is: If you really cannot afford it, really do not buy it.
There is no mystery to this. Unless - come June - you still want to be anxiously over thinking that item you bought for someone else and will probably never have the opportunity to enjoy except via the fast-fading love rush of generosity, then put it back. I assure you, your mother will adore some other thing you can afford just as much. And your 8-year old does not need an iPod Touch.
Right now you may be thinking this is rich advice coming from me. I'm not known for bramacharya. I am known for thrilling to the chase and reveling in the spoils of war. But my spoils are all, relatively speaking, within the realm of my financial solvency.
I have a lot to say about Christmas buying. So much that I'm going to say it over two posts. This post, in addition to proselytizing that overwhelming debt is entirely contrary to the spirit of the season, will discuss how best to shop the stores during a time frame actually constructed to make you crazy, and therefore spend-y.
This isn't rocket science, but it's worth repeating:
- Inasmuch as holidays should be a joy for those receiving, it should also be a joy to give. Joyful giving depends on you having fun from the get-go. Shopping should be flanked by lunch (to protect blood sugar) and a glass of wine (or other enjoyable treat) when it's all done. Including friends can make a potentially stressful activity more pleasant. (More hands and eyes make for more efficiency.) Unless you are one of those shoppers who must be alone to find the zen.
- If you shop on Saturday afternoon in mid-December you will want to slit your wrists within an hour. And that's if you have fortitude. If you're a wuss, you have 20 minutes tops. Go at lunch hour or - better still - Friday mornings. And, though it sounds ridiculous, start now.
- Do not imagine, unless you're buying for 3 people and/or you are extremely fortunate and kickass, that you will get it all done in one shot. Expect to shop a number of times over the span of about 6 weeks. Then you can a) carry it all home and b) take your time in reflecting about possible options and the merits of spending on any one thing.
- Aim to catch the pre-Xmas sales. I'm on the Club Monaco promotions-alert. When they do mid-week sales knocking 30% off the price of some cashmere scarf, I'm going to know.
- The more you shop, the better you fare. (Notwithstanding some sort of shopping addiction, natch.) Only experience can teach you the rhythm of shopping: sale cycles, making friends with SA's who put stuff aside for you while you consider options, turnover patterns, getting special sale opps because you are a special client etc.
- Make sure you can return it, whatever it is. And get gift receipts.
- Shop in places that wrap for free. Generally, the fancier the store, the more likely free wrap is to be available. And the more classy it will look. Of course this is not always the case. Boutiques tend to wrap for free too. Some things are the same price wherever you buy (cologne, anyone). So if you can get it at Shopper's or Holt's, choose the latter. Unless Shopper's is offering 5000 Optimum points.
- Keep some lovely wrapping (or gift bags) and some generic, affordable gifts on hand at work and at home. Don't go out to a holiday lunch without one stashed in your bag - just in case. (I'll go into more detail about this next post.)
- Though it's very challenging - this one tests me tremendously - you cannot buy one for you and one for____. The time for self-shopping is after Christmas, when you don't get that thing you desperately wanted and now it's on mega-discount. (Did I mention there's a whole other system for Boxing Day shopping. This one isn't for everyone...)
- And finally, though I could go on, bring a list. When 16 people are jostling you for a swipe at the same one remaining item, do you really think your brain is going to be able to remember the 15 other prezzies you're on the hunt to buy? Answer: No way.