Saturday, November 10, 2012
A Guide to Early Christmas Shopping
The time has come, folks. My first adventure in to the world of Christmas shopping. Now, technically, starting my Christmas shopping in early November is NOT early. In fact, most years I'm all done by now. I usually get out there towards the end of September middle of October. But, to many, the second weekend of November is early.
How many of you out there have kids or family members to buy for, but have absolutely no idea what to get them? Yeah. Me too. I have three children - all different ages and in to different things. It's just impossible to try and figure out what they want. So, I decided to come up with a quick tip guide for Christmas shopping for those that you love.
1. Make them write a list. I tell my children to "have at it" - meaning go as crazy as they want. Big, small, expensive, cheap.. it doesn't matter. From having a list, you can really get a good idea of the things your kids are "in to". Peanut just handed me a 3 page list - even though when I asked her what she wanted for Christmas a couple of days ago, she responded with "I don't know". That always happens. Kids don't know when you ask them. Have them sit down and think about it - and then write it down. Peanut got really smart and went to the web for ideas. Jelly's list is over a page, even though the only things she told me she wanted was an iPad and a phone. *Insert eye roll*. Butter's still working on his, so I have no idea what to expect.. but he's been working hard on it. Now, if I could just get him to work as hard on his homework....
2. Focus on themes from the list. If your kids are anything like mine, there's usually an apparent theme to their list. Peanut's theme is probably a typical teenage girl's theme: Stuff to make them look prettier. Clothes, make-up, shoes, accessories. Jelly's theme is stuffed animals and artsy stuff. I'm going to take a guess that Butter's will probably focus on outdoorsy stuff. The best part about themes is that you can buy stuff that's not on the list - but still hit things they want.
I'm going to interject here and explain why I don't just buy what they put on their lists. Well, because in my mind - Christmas should have an appeal of surprise. I don't want my kids knowing what they're going to get. Another reason why I have them write such an extensive list. They know they're not going to get all of it - but that brings an element of surprise. They will wonder what I picked and what I didn't. They will be surprised when I've managed to find things they didn't even think about. I don't like Christmas to be predictable. Remember, I love the thrill of seeing their faces just as much as they like opening stuff.
3. Remember that kids focus on quantity not quality. It's always been my rule that each kid opens the same amount of gifts on Christmas morning. I've had many parents venomously disagree with that logic. Many focus on how much money is spent. Each child gets a certain amount of money - and then the gifts are calculated that way. Some kids may open a couple of more expensive gifts, while another child sits there and opens 10 gifts. The same amount of money was spent - but they just don't get that. Trust me. It doesn't matter how much you try and explain this to children - they always believe you love the kid that got the most more. So you bought them a PS3 while their sibling got ten toys that equate to the cost of a PS3? PS3 kid now believes that ten toy sibling is loved WAY more. Yes, it's stupid... and probably should teach children the value of money, blah, blah, blah... but I don't want to mess with that come Christmas morning.
4. Include some Christmas charity. All year, I try and get my kids to downsize their hoards of stuff. I tell them that if they don't use something, it's time to get rid of it. But, that just never happens... until Christmas time. When I'm able to explain - and my kids happen to see firsthand - the amount of kids that don't get to have a good Christmas, they are more than willing to open up the floodgates of getting rid of their stuff to give it to the less fortunate. It's a tradition I started a few years ago, and one that I cherish now. Even Jelly has a big hand in sorting her toys and clothes to give away. I let them chose what stays and goes - and where it goes. It's there deal. And I also don't allow the "out with the old in with the new" mentality. This isn't about making room for the new stuff, it's about spreading some Christmas cheer to kids that need it.
5. Have fun. One thing I refuse to get wrapped up in is Christmas shopping stress. It's probably why I refuse to wait until the last minute to go out and shop. If I don't find something this weekend, I still have plenty of time to find it. I'm not running around like a headless chicken trying to get everything done in a day - while running down my competition with shopping carts in the process. It's another reason why I don't head out with a specific list. Browsing and looking is apart of the fun of Christmas shopping. Making a mad dash for the hottest item of the season just isn't something I'll do. It's not fun. And again, Christmas shopping (for me) is just as fun as watching the kids open it all Christmas morning. If I start to lose the element of fun, then it's game over.
Addendum to #3 - Don't spend a small fortune on Christmas. After rereading my #3, it comes across that my kids are spoiled brats who don't understand the meaning of money. That's not the case. My kids are absolutely wonderful when it comes to Christmas. There could be one gift waiting for them under the tree Christmas morning, and they wouldn't complain. I wasn't really directing that piece of advice based on the behaviors of my own children - just past experiences I've seen and gone through elsewhere. Which makes me state this addendum. Don't feel like you have to spend a small fortune on Christmas.
I save for Christmas, I plan ahead. It is always my hope that I can give my kids a big Christmas - and that's me.. not them. I'm the biggest kid in my house on Christmas morning. I have a hard time sleeping. I am the first one up Christmas morning. All because the highlight of my entire year is watching my children open up their Christmas gifts. But, even though I want them to get lots of stuff - I won't ever compromise the family budget just so they can get some new toys. And, in honesty, I do try and set aside a similar amount of money for each child - I just buy accordingly so that they all end up with the same amount of gifts to open. I pick out one "big" item - cost not size- and then piddle around from there. There have been years that have been better than others... but my Christmas budget is something I hold sacred. I go out with an amount I know I can spend - and that's it. No budging, no swaying. What I end up with is based on how I can watch out for sales, select items from the list that are "comparable", and just doing the best I can. My kids have always and will always understand this. Christmas isn't about putting yourself in to unneeded debt.
So, there you have it... a few quick tips for Christmas shopping. So, now there's just one thing left for me to do... go get in the shower and ready for my day out. YAY!!