Today: Jul 23, 2024

Gift-Giving101: The spirit of a smart shopper


Believe it or not, the holidays are right around the corner. It seems as though every year stores tell us months in advance the holidays are coming, but we shrug it off. “We haven’t even gotten through Halloween, let alone Thanksgiving, but Christmas stuff is already out” seems to be the typical comment. Yet, now we find ourselves dumbfounded because Santa Claus is comin’ to town in a few weeks! Being the good students we are, we’ve been focusing more on academics than shopping, but it’s time to put down those scientific calculators and pick up our wallets.
Straight From the Heart
There are very few gifts that beat something from Tiffany’s (who doesn’t love opening those beautiful blue boxes?), but personal gifts are even better. For at least five years, my mom has been begging my younger sister and me to take a picture with the Santa at the Milford Mall. Every year we’d laugh at her and say it’s not going to happen. Last year my sister and I caved in; we even framed the picture. When my mom opened it up on Christmas morning she was so excited and all over a photograph. She actually
brought it to my aunt’s house later that day to say “Look what my kids did!” Sometimes it’s small but significant gifts that bring joy to a person, and you don’t have to spend a fortune.
Let’s face it: the economy is horrible, and we’re trying to save money more than ever before. Stores are suffering too, so many of them are offering sales you can take advantage of. If you’re shopping online, use sites that offer free shipping. As much as I love to shop, I love walking away knowing I saved money even more.
Another idea is to wait to shop until the holidays are over, when almost everything is discounted. For a few years now I’ve been buying a Christmas-themed mini martini glass by Lolita for my mom. Before Christmas they’re about $13— after Christmas they’re about $6. I’m not suggesting you do all your holiday shopping a year in advance, but if you see something that’s significantly marked down, why not pick it up early?
Best Time to Shop
Two or three years ago I was shopping last-minute. I was at the mall the night before Christmas Eve. The lines weren’t as brutal as I expected, but there were way too many cranky people in the mall. If possible, try going shopping on a weekday in the daytime. Many people are working then (although some take the day off to shop). If you want to avoid a headache and long lines, try to avoid weekends, especially the weekend before Christmas. This is when all the last-minute shoppers are out. The stores will be crowded, the lines will be long, and they may be out of what you wanted. In fact, back in high school, I got stuck working Christmas Eve at CVS. My shift started at 4 p.m.; I can’t even tell you how many people came in yelling at me, “Why don’t you have any more Russell Stover?” The moral of the story: don’t wait until the last minute.
Online Madness
There are many people who believe online shopping is the greatest thing ever. My mom’s friend Frank practically refuses to shop in a store unless it’s Walgreens; he even loves Stop ‘n Shop’s Peapod system.
However, there are a few things to consider before whipping out a credit card and making an obscene number of online purchases. Before buying something, look to see how long the shipping and handling is expected to take. If the item you want to buy is for the holidays, your best bet is to start shopping as soon as possible. There’s usually an overnight delivery option as well, but this will cost extra; sometimes express delivery even costs more than the item you’re purchasing.
Another thing to consider is whether or not the website you’re using is reliable. Well-known sites like Overstock and stores you can go to (JC Penney, FYE, Target, etc.) tend to be reliable. However, it’s important
to consider that anyone can make a website, so it may not be legitimate. Now don’t get me wrong, some small sites are great, but be careful. You wouldn’t want to think you’re purchasing a Christmas gift, only to find out a month later that it was a scam and that your identity has now been stolen.
Mean Gifts
I couldn’t talk about gifts without mentioning gag gifts or mean presents. I was the victim last Christmas
when my sister gave me a sock monkey keychain. She knows I can’t stand those demented, creepy-looking things. I wouldn’t say I necessarily have a fear of them, but I’m certainly not a fan, regardless if it’s a keychain size or the big sock monkey in the Kia commercials. Her mean gift ultimately backfired, as I named him, and carried him on one of my purses for a while (although I can’t seem to remember his name now). Nevertheless, gag gifts can be a good idea, assuming the person will be able to laugh it off. Just in case they don’t like it, I wouldn’t suggest spending more than $10 on a mean gift, especially if you’re on a budget.

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