Simple steps to stress-free gift shopping
Birthdays and holidays come at the same time every year, so why does gift-giving always seem to sneak up on us? Well, if you’re anything like us, right now you’re thinking more about bathing-suit options (where can we find the cost-benefit analysis on skirted tankinis versus 6am boot camp, anyhow?) than planning the perfect stocking stuffers. We’re here to help.
Try these simple and oh-so-painless suggestions to make your gift-giving experience this year be – dare we say it – even better than receiving.
1. Make a list. In just a few minutes, you can create a list of your loved ones’ special days (Hint: don’t forget anniversaries…including your own) and decide how much you want to spend for each gift. Carry the list with you or save it on your phone. That way, when you find a great sale in April, you can pull out the list and score the perfect present for your sister’s September birthday – surprising her with something truly fitting.
2. Designate a space. Buying gifts as you find them is a great way to get ahead, unless you can’t find them when it’s time to give. We have a friend who set up a “gift shelf” in a closet where she keeps all her finds for future gifting. If you do the same, you can avoid succumbing to “where did I put that?” syndrome.
3. Set yourself up for a November windfall. Even with a growing stash of great gifts, the holidays are often a time of big spending in a short window. Setting aside a little money all year long helps. We like Christmas clubs; many local banks and credit unions offer these special savings accounts. Start early so when it’s time to brave the holiday shopping crowds, you’ll have a reserve. Learn more about Christmas club accounts here from the BBB.
4. Save your raise. Good news! According to human resources consulting firm Mercer, most companies plan to increase employees' pay by an average of 3% in 2012, up from the past two years. Putting aside even a portion of that extra cash each month can really add up, and if you set it up to automatically deposit into a separate savings account on payday, it’s painless, too.
5. Make your credit cards work for you by using the rewards and loyalty benefits you earn. Next time you receive a rewards certificate or gift card, note the expiration date on your planner and put it right in the front of your wallet. Then, schedule a shopping lunch date early in the week, when store traffic is lightest. Having something to look forward to post-weekend will make it that much easier to avoid hitting the snooze button.
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