Christmas Shopping. . . ain’t what it used to be!

Betina here with a confession. I hate shopping. Sigh. I used to love it– linger and search and imagine and enjoy and discover. These day’s it’s just a pain. People. Traffic. Prices. Yech.

But I still love giving gifts.

You see my philosophy of gift-giving is simple: find something that makes the receiver’s heart sing. So, no pressure. I honestly think gifts should show you’ve been paying attention to the person you’re gifting. . . should make them feel known and appreciated. . . should let them know how much their preferences and delights matter to you. By that admittedly elevated standard, the “Hictory Farms” basket and “annual fruitcake” should be relegated to people you don’t know and/or can’t stand. Which begs the question of why you’re sending them a gift in the first place. Oh. Except the inlaws.

The problem is, the people who mean a great deal to me live many, many miles away these days and it’s harder and harder to keep up with the vagueries of their various tastes and desires. So, I call and talk and ferret and discern, and still half of the time I get it wrong. Even the wee ones are a problem: don’t they already have it, will it be educational, is it too complicated, too simple, too expensive, too cheap?

And then there’s the time involved. And the energy. The leisurely days of day-long shopping and lunching out with the girls are gone for now. My weekends are precious and two or three hours spent on tracking down one gift, store to store, is a real sacrifice. So I’ve taken to shortcuts. Internet. Catalogs. Catalogs ON the internet. It isn’t as much fun as the old day-out-shopping used to be, but it takes some of the worry and effort out of the process.

Some of my favorite catalogs are LLBean, Frontgate, Coldwater Creek, Solutions, Soft Surroundings, Uncomon Goods, Winter Silks, Young Explorers, and Land of Nod. (Those last two speak for themselves!) I’m also a fan of Pottery Barn, in all of its variations, and Williams Sonoma. But online, I also like Target and Nordstroms and Macy’s and Bloomingdales. And there’s the ever-popular E-Bay. These days I can even shop from my wireless phone!

So, I now have a system. List everyone I need to buy for and jot down ideas for what their favorites are. . . including things they’ve mentioned liking/wanting. Then I stockpile catalogs from the first of November to December 1st or so. And I sit down with my computer and the catalogs and start shopping. There are still phone calls to check on sizes, styles, and models but those are minor and quickly done. Everything I can order, I order. . . having things wrapped when possible and shipped. What I can’t find that way, I have to find on a quick strategic strike of a shopping trip. My standard is 1 hour, 1 present. And usually, if I’ve done my homework, I can get it done.

I used to think that “giftwrapping” charges were close to extortion. But if you count buying the paper and tape and ribbons and gift cards/tags. . . “3.99″ or “4.99″ starts to look a lot more reasonable. Especially when time is at a premium. I used to love wrapping presents. . . still do. But when you have to do all that AND pack to ship. . . well, it’s more time and expense than I’d like to invest. So when I can and when it’s reasonable, I have the store/mail order house do it for me. And I have more time to concentrate on things that matter at Christmas: visiting friends, preparing special treats, decorating the house, and– of course– working toward the looming deadline for a book.

What about you? How do you handle Christmas shopping? Any tips and short-cuts you can share? Or just general Christmas stuff you’d like to unload. . .

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13 Responses to Christmas Shopping. . . ain’t what it used to be!

  1. Ian says:

    What I can't find that way, I have to find on a quick strategic strike of a shopping trip. Nice Blogmurano glass vase

  2. Kathleen O says:

    I used to love shopping, but now the crowds are too much for me. Though the best time for me to shop is early in the morning.. I have done that a couple of times in past years, especially with some stores like Wal-Mart open 24/7 until Christmas. I am an early riser and I can get it done in no time at all.. But this Christmas it will be alittle harder, as I can't just jump in the car and take off.. I have to have someone else do the driving for me this year.. OH well maybe next year.

  3. lois greiman says:

    i used to love to shop too. but things change. partly money. partly time. friends and i usually go to second hand stores and buy outrageous, no guilt gifts. last time out it was a 'spank me it's my birthday' shirt for the birthday girl. you just don't get better than that. :)

  4. I try to shop early. Like around September. When I see something affordable that sings to me of someone close to me, I buy it and stash it. Yes, I've occasionally forgotten where it's stashed, but I've solved that problem by making room in one safe place.I try to use fundraisers as a shopping source. Schools are doing so much fundraising these days. Animal charities are great for the animal lovers in my life, and I have many.E-Bay is one of my biggest weaknesses, but I give myself permission for school clothes and gifts. But after Christmas, I have to go cold turkey for a while. I can lose hours browsing e-bay.Can you tell I'm not a mall hopper? It's the parking that frustrates me most.

  5. Michele Hauf says:

    I love to give gifts too, but after years of sending to all the cousins and in-laws, I've narrowed it down to just the under-age-five kids. Kids love to get packages in the mail, so no matter what you send, they're are excited. And usually it's a great kids' book. I have only bought one present for my family so far. I hate going in stores! And I just have no clue what to get this year. I don't even have the tree up yet. I haven't switched onto Xmas mode yet. Sigh…

  6. Helen Brenna says:

    I think I angsted myself away over the years trying to find perfect gifts for every one of my nieces and nephews, most of whom were out of town. Couldn't afford mail order shopping back then, so I had to package and send them all myself.Then I angsted over my own kids, and Christmases never seemed as perfect at I wanted them to be.I think it'll change when/if I ever have grandkids, but there's no joy in it any longer.Honestly, the joy I find in the holiday season seems to have less and less to do with gifts and more and more to do with traditions of DOING particular things with the people I love.Don't sweat the gifts, Betina. If you can swing being with your kids and grandkids, that'll be their best gift!

  7. Debra Dixon says:

    Okay, it's confession time.I'm enchanted by Christmas but I don't have time for a big extravaganza anymore. And I long ago stopped putting myself in the poor house for gift giving. But I will be doing Christmas baking not once, but twice this year.Everyone knows I don't do any of the cooking so when you get a baked gift from me, it means you're special to me.But we do not go crazy with the gift giving at our house.

  8. KylieBrant says:

    We used to draw names for siblings, nieces and nephews but I'm the one who called a halt to that. With five kids of my own, that meant having to buy a lot more gifts (they all drew a cousins name) and there was a significant 'inbalance' in the time/thought others put into it so I was the grinch who called a halt to that end.My own kids insist on drawing names which I think is ridiculous, but they want to continue it for their own siblings. I hate shopping any time a year but Christmas is the worst because I don't like people touching me, LOL, so crowds are annoying. Last year I did half my shopping on the Internet. This year I had better luck in the mall Sat. but still have a little online shopping to do and one more mall trip.I try not to think about the money I spend, which is also ridiculous. But my kids give me lists at Thanksgiving. I try to get them what they want (who ever expected their parents to buy them Bowl tickets to FLorida for Christmas!) but I also try to get a couple surprises in there that they'll like.I don't envy you, Betina, because it is difficult to buy and give long distance and still maintain an element of surprise. Far harder to keep your finger on their likes and dislikes to surprise them with.

  9. Cindy Gerard says:

    Sounds like most of us are in the same place re: shopping. I've tried both the mall and on line this year. On line ROCKS!!! I'd really like to shop locally but it's just so darn easy to sit down with my list in front of the computer and "get 'er done!"But I do like picking out that special something for special people and I don't think that's something I'll ever get past. Especially when it comes to the little ones. LOVE shopping for them.

  10. Anonymous says:

    I make a list of the items I want to get and what store I think I can find them in and then I call that store to see if they have free gift wrapping. Then I try to get the items in that store. I have a couple of middle school age neighbor girls that I have come and wrap a few presents for me. They like doing that and I give them a treat for doing that for me.Also, my family hates it but I save the good wrapping paper from gifts to be used the next year. I try to re-cycle as much as possible.JOYJWIsley(at)aol(dot)com

  11. Cindy Gerard says:

    BTW – those Hickory Farms packages – guys stationed overseas in Iraq and Afghanistan LOVE them! They can't get that kind of stuff over there.

  12. Betina Krahn says:

    Thanks, guys, for helping me feel less of a Scrooge and proving that shopping during the holidays isn't much fun for anybody! Okay– most people. Especially when you're trying to balance family and career and budget. . . and still have expectations of a Martha Stewart Christmas!I'm glad to hear more and more people are internet shopping. And you know, Cindy, a couple of years ago I helped an elderly neighbor wrap all of her presents to send to her family. Sheesh it took forever and was exhausting– and I'm 30 years younger than she is! But we had a glass of wine and chatted while I wrapped and she tried to remember where she'd stashed everything she'd bought. it was fun. Maybe I'll call her this year and see if she needs help.And Deb– the baking– I think I've given it up, too. Although I love to do it and to give it to people as a token of affection. Feeding people is a real joy for me.For several years, my sister and I exchanged recipes for Christmas. . . and I got some doozies. One was a cold "appetizer pizza" that I still like to make sometimes. Hey, maybe I'll see if she wants to resurrect that this year. Neither of us can figure out what to get the other.And the husbands/sig-others. . . mine is harder to buy for every year. So I think I'm going to give him books and a cheap airfare someplace fun in the year ahead.Geez, I hope he doesn't read this!

  13. July says:

    I was shopping online yesterday trying to buy for my son a Super Mario Bros Game.. I stumbled upon a site called EZWINGAME…they are running a free contest this week for a free Nintendo… Wanted to know if anyone has heard of this site..and what they think…thanks July

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