Our View From Here

Perspectives of Five Women

Christmas Shopping: Not just for December Anymore

My Christmas shopping is done. I just got the last stocking stuffer this past weekend. Now that most people are done cursing me, I’ll explain how. I Christmas shop year round.

When I was growing up my parents would always be finished with shopping before Thanksgiving. I was raised with the concept that this was the best way to avoid the cranky marathon shoppers and enjoy the holiday season more. My mom has gotten away from this habit ever since I was in high school. Between after school activites, work, etc she just couldn’t get the shopping done before her Thanksgiving deadline. I have decided that her method is the way to go as long as I can pull it off. Anytime I go to a Summer Art Festival, away on a vacation, or even on a girls day out shopping, I am keeping an eye out for potential Christmas gifts. One important thing with this method is to have a designated area in your living space for the gifts so you can find them 6 months later.  Not that it isn’t fun tearing your apartment apart the week before christmas looking for the necklace you got your mom in July (not that I’ve ever done that).

I take a lot of pride in buying presents for people no matter the occasion. I like to put thought in it and know they’ll use it or enjoy it. The years I’ve left shopping to December will usually result in seriously random presents for people. They’ve liked them well enough, or at least pretended to but I’ll always feel like I could’ve found something better if I had more time. If, over the whole year, I haven’t found something for my family I will resort to asking what they want around late October.

Over the past few years I had trouble shopping for my sister.When I’d ask what she wanted it was usually a Lowe’s gift card to put toward her house. I would always tell her bluntly “No I’m not getting you that give me another option.” This may seem mean but in fairness she will do the same thing to me, especially when I was younger. I’d tell her a random object I wanted and she’d look me dead in the eye and say, “That’s stupid and useless I’m not getting that for you.It has to be something practical I refuse to add to your crap.” Ah, sisterly love. She had a point though.

I like to give people something they will use or enjoy and not just become part of the clutter. So practically speaking, a gift card to Lowe’s  is a great gift but it feels so impersonal. I’ve gotten over this to an extent. A gift card CAN be a personal gift. A friend of mine got her master’s degree a few years ago and, as a graduation present, I got her a gift card to one of her favorite clothing stores for new work clothes. If there is a specialty store I know someone loves, they’ll get a card to there. I personally am a BIG fan of Target. Anytime I get a Target card I get down right giddy. The one year I nearly got my sister her beloved Lowe’s card because she was planning on using it toward the purchase of a new stove (I ended up finding something better but I nearly relented).  In these ways, a gift card is almost more personal than some random thing that is picked up for the sake of finishing shopping (and yes this is what I used to do for people with fingers crossed that they liked the gift). By buying  a well thought out gift card you know they’ll like it.

The few times I do go out shopping this time of year it tends to be less stressful. I’ll look at the people running  around with tons of big bags from various stores (Honestly! How many people do they have to buy for?) I’m still keeping my eyes open for presents for people. It gives me warm fuzzy feelings when I find something that I know a friend will love and isn’t that the whole point? So if you are still out gathering gifts for loved ones I hope you find just the right thing (or gift card) that gives you the warm fuzzies.

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Black Friday has Arrived

Black Friday (1940 film)

Image via Wikipedia

So, did you wake up early this morning and hit the stores? Were you at Sears at 7am? How about Target or Macy’s at 4am? Kohl‘s at 3am? If not, then you obviously aren’t in the holiday spirit! What kind of Scrooge are you?

Personally, I avoid the malls from this point on.  The over-commercialization of what should be a wonderful holiday just make me cranky.  I do the majority of my in-store Christmas shopping in November and then have a fairly strict no mall policy from this point on. I end up doing the majority of my shopping in December online. It makes sense – most of my gifts go across country at this point, so I can have things shipped directly to them, saving me a trip to the post office later on this month.

I didn’t always used to feel this way. My family would get up and be there when the store opened (back when opening at 8am was really early!) I remember one year in particular when my dad was recovering from hip surgery. We took advantage of his disabled parking permit, wheeled him around the mall in his wheelchair, and piled our packages on him as we purchased our gifts! It was really kind of fun.

I think it was the Christmas in 2000 that I discovered the beauty of shopping on the Internet! I was hooked. What did I ever do before Amazon.com? It is by far my favorite shopping site. I can get books, music, and movies, sure, but I also get my dog supplies there, dishes for my household, and variety of other things. It’s amazing. And, with free shipping over $25, there’s no reason not to use them!

So as we descend into the shopping frenzy that is December, I avoid the malls, mute the commercials on TV, and try to find gifts for my family and friends that truly show how I feel about them. It’s not easy, but it’s worth it.

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It slices! It dices! It does your laundry!

I think it’s generally understood and accepted that we live in a consumer culture.  We’re constantly bombarded with imagery that in one glance tells us that our lives are somehow lacking because we don’t own THE essential item.  We’re not yet whole because we don’t have the most up-to-date electronics or the most fashionable home furnishings. 

This time of year, the commercials, catalogs and store circulars come fast and furious.   I tend to ignore (or TRY to ignore) this assault on my senses and sales resistance.  So, while this week I’m meant to be dealing in shopping tips and tricks, you won’t find that in this post. 

I love buying gifts for the people I love.  I really love finding a special gift that lets a person know that I put a lot of thought and love into selecting something they would like, or at least find useful.  I love making gifts tailored to the tastes of my family and friends.  But, I do not love holiday shopping because it has so very little to do with any of these things. 

Holiday shopping has become such a high-pressure, fast-paced, take-no-prisoners atmosphere that it drains the holiday season of all those wonderful warm feelings people are supposed to be having.  Instead of holiday cheer, we have stampedes of customers trampling others in the pursuit of a toy for a five-year-old (who probably couldn’t care less).  Instead of goodwill toward men, we have lines of angry customers waiting at the mall.  Instead of peace on earth, we have tension headaches.

So, in a season of so much emphatic gift-buying and so little time spent with those we love (because we’re so busy buying things for them), perhaps we should shift our focus.  Maybe we shouldn’t be spending ourselves into debt.  Maybe we should be spending our time with loved ones instead.  

Life is, after all, short.  And, while I’m sure there are a few people who look back at the end of it and think, “If only I’d had that Play Station, my life would have been perfect.”  The majority probably wish they’d had more time to share with the people they love, more laughter with friends and more cozy dinners with family.  Why don’t we ever try to give each other these things?

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Shopping – my archnemisis

This week, in honor of Black Friday I suppose, we’re talking about shopping. It’s very easy for me to sum up my feelings about shopping. I hate it. I hate the crowds, the rude salespeople and I hate parting with my money. I like my money, and I feel it is more at home in my wallet than a cold cash register. I’m also not one of those people who needs the latest fashions. I figure as long as I look good in what I have and everything matches, that’s all I really need. It’s great for extending the life of one’s wardrobe.

If I must go shopping, I try to do it when the stores first open, or towards closing time. I can’t stand going in the middle of the afternoon when everyone else is there. It’s ironic in a way. As a kid, I used to hate that my parents always insisted on getting up early to go to the stores. It all makes sense now.

I do seem to have some kind of shopping quota that must be fulfilled though. I tend to go for months not buying anything (except essentials like food and toiletries). Months. I can’t remember the last time I was in my local mall. However, my non-shopping seems to build to a breaking point, which leads to binge shopping. My binge shopping is relatively benign. It usually starts with getting an email or catalogue from one of my favorite stores advertising a great sale with free shipping. Here’s the crux – free shipping. I shop at very few stores and know what sizes I need. I hop online, stuff my virtual shopping bag/cart (with 3, maybe 4 items – I told you my binge shopping was benign), enter my shipping address and credit card information and wait patiently for my order to arrive. No traffic, no crowds, no salespeople, no cranky me.  I love online shopping so much, I even buy the K-cups for my Keurig coffeemaker online (http://www.bigcatcoffees.com/).

I do go to stores occasionally. I seem to have a particular weakness for Target. I think it’s because I can buy a whole bunch of stuff – accessories, makeup, house goods, etc. – without spending that much money. I also can go there late at night and not deal with the crowds. I’ve learned not to buy gifts there though – they have a pretty poor return policy.

Shopping is one of those things I really don’t derive much enjoyment from. I more view it as a necessary evil. Sometimes I wished I enjoyed it more and liked going clothes shopping and having the latest styles and whatnot. But after nearly 30 years, I don’t think my viewpoint on it is going to change. I take the band-aid approach to shopping- minimize the pain by getting it done as fast as possible.

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