Mrs. Claus’ Christmas Shopping Tips
It’s that time of year and I thought I would share some of my tips with you that I am doing this year or have done in the past.

Christmas Fund – Start a separate savings account and have a set amount from your checking every month automatically deposit into this savings account year round. By the time Christmas gets close you have Christmas money and you don’t have to go into your regular account and spend or deal with lay-a-way.

Track Your Spending – I cash out most of the money from the account and put in an envelope. I take the envelope with me everywhere I go, in case I stop somewhere and shop for gifts. It is also nice to use cash to pay for gifts and by using the envelope method, it keeps me from overspending and I stay on target. This year I am doing it a little differently, I transferred the money to my checking and will shop mostly online this year – I will be keeping a running list on my spending so I don’t go over the total amount.

Make a List – Have friends and family give you their list of what they for Christmas. I also try and add things that I know I am going to buy people. I keep the list with me at all times and put it in my envelope. Again, keeps you from overspending, helps you stay on target, helps you spend less time in the stores.

Shop During the Week – Shop during the weekdays and not on the holidays or weekends. Go after work or during your lunch hour during the week. The weekends are a zoo! It will be crowded in the stores, longer lines, not to mention all the mishaps in the parking lot. The shelves and stores are also messier and disorganized on the weekends as well. Use the weekends to wrap your presents, decorating the house, baking, online shopping, etc.

Holiday Hours – Another thing is that there are some stores who will extend their hours as the holidays get closer. Call around and see how late they are staying open and/or when their holiday hours will start. I did this one year and it was great shopping during the week late at night – nobody was hardly in the joint.

Save Time – Before you go shopping around for a particular item, call around to stores first to see if they have it. This will save you the time and frustration from going to store to store, wasting time, energy and gas. Also look up store locations and mapping directions online before you drive around looking.

Online Shopping – Consider the internet for making purchases – but don’t wait till the last minute or you may not get your gift on time. Amazon.com is really good and they usually have some Christmas specials on free shipping if you purchase a certain amount by a certain time – that’s a good deal.

Stay Healthy – Bring hand sanitizer with you. Those shopping carts are nasty folks, not to mention everything else you and your kids will touch out and about in the stores. I have even brought those wipes and wiped down the cart handle. Having the flu during the holidays is not fun. Be sure to also get plenty of rest, eat right and take yer vitamins!

Receipts – Save the receipts and keep them in your cash envelope. This keeps you from loosing them and easier for a loved one if they need to exchange your gift.

Shipping Packages – If you are shipping packages to people, buy small things to pack in a smaller box, ship all your packages at once and be done, ship them early and cheap – don’t fall for the USPS pitch on paying just a tiny bit more for the faster service. I have found that the faster service really is not much faster and sometimes regular delivery is just as fast for the cheaper rate.

Don’t Kill Yourself – Do a little bit at a time – don’t spend days at a time running around and shopping till you drop. You will be worn out and cranky. Plan a few stops a day and try to get as many things as you can in one place after looking over your list. As long as you are not waiting a week before Christmas to shop.

When to Shop – Of course you should start as early as possible but I know a lot of people don’t think of it till Thanksgiving. The best time to shop for Christmas presents is the Mon, Tue, and Wed before Thanksgiving. Just DO NOT go into grocery stores! The day and weekend after Thanksgiving stay home and put up your tree, decorations, and work on your Christmas cards. Otherwise you’ll be sorry you went out.

Stand By Gifts – You should buy some inexpensive unisex gifts to have on hand just in case you need to give a gift at the very last minute to someone. Usually you need these for unexpected guests or even people who maybe got you a gift and you had not expected to give them one. If you don’t use it, save it for next year.

Re-gifting – If you got a gift from someone and don’t like, or already have one etc. and you plan to give it to someone else be careful. I’m all for saving money and all that – just be sure you put a post it on the gift as to who gave it to you so you don’t give it back to the same person! That would be really bad. See my thoughts on that from last year.

Save Money – Buy wrapping paper, Christmas cards, bows, tape, etc. after Christmas when they are cheaper. That way you won’t overspend and you will be stocked up for next year.