Deck the Halls – Part 5 Last Minute Gift Giving Guide

Tis the season for giving but this doesn’t mean that you need to break into a sweat just thinking about finding a spot in the mall parking lot, or that your charge card has been used so much that the magnetic stripe is wearing off! We told you we would take special care of you this Christmas and we won’t disappoint! And so, seeing that there are approximately 10 days until Christmas, it is time to address any last minute gifts and we have you covered. You may not even have to leave the comfort of your own home, and you may not have to dread your impending credit card bill! I know what you are thinking, “it’s a Christmas miracle!”

Follow our step by step guide to great gift giving and a stress free, ‘more pennies in the piggy bank’ start to 2013…

Step 1 – Get organized!!!

There is nothing worse than what I like to call ‘present panic’! You see people in the mall who have it; they are running around buying everything in sight regardless of price, or worse, if the recipient of said gifts will even enjoy them, which is the entire point of giving, to bring joy! Do us a favour, before you frantically hop in the car and circle the parking lot for at least 30mins, which puts you in a Scrooge frame of mind and not ideal for gift shopping, take 10 mins and do this one simple thing…..MAKE A LIST!!!

Make a list of who you have gifts for, who you have partial gifts for, who you have no gifts for and set a budget!!! Also, before you start running around like a madman, come up with some ideas for said gifts! Next, have a method to your madness, don’t zigzag across the mall, start at one end and pop into places as you go along. Better yet, bring a spouse, friend, someone who owes you a big favour (this is good one to cash it in on, we promise) and divide and conquer! But before you jump in your car and contemplate parking illegally after said 30 min parking spot search try the following…..

Step 2 – Shop online!

The past few years this has truly been Christmas’ gift to me! Honestly, pretty much every store that you are going to frequent at the mall will have a website which you can order from. And, if you have followed from Step 1 and organized yourself before hopping online, it will be that much easier! The great thing is that many websites will provide free shipping if you spend a certain dollar amount, talk about doing you a favour! Now, this doesn’t mean spend an extra $30 to save $5 on shipping but it does mean to see if there are a number of gifts that you can purchase from one place. Another bonus is that some online stores will gift wrap and ship your item to whomever it is you need to send it to!
A few of my go-to sites in the online department are:
Chapters Indigo – Trust me they are way more than just books, you will find all sorts of neat things for everyone on your list! Check for coupons and use your rewards club card if you have it, even more savings!
Amazon – Again, a great site that has a pretty good array of gift giving goodies. Check to see if your items qualify for free shipping!
Gap/Old Navy/Banana Republic – Do yourself a favour and sign up for their emails, they usually send out some sort of sale/coupon almost every day between the three of them! Plus the shipping and handling are great; I recently purchased a number of items that came in a nice box to my door with pre-paid shipping stickers and a return sheet if I needed to send anything back. Double bonus!

Step 3 – Mall Shopping Tips (these can save your sanity)

1. Go early, preferably on a weekday – The malls are packed on the weekend, this isn’t news to anyone. If you can spare it take a day off, or even a half day, through the week and get it all done at once. It is kind of like ripping off a Band-Aid, the thought is painful but you are always happy when it is quickly over.
2. Leave your jacket in the car – About 5 mins in you will be too hot and then it is just another massive thing to carry.
3. Wear comfortable shoes -This is a marathon, not a sprint. Santa doesn’t care if you bought Lego in 5 inch stilettos or flip flops. Do yourself a favour and keep the barking dogs at bay!
4. Eat, Drink and Be Merry – Christmas shopping is like a sport, a marathon so to speak as mentioned in tip #3. Be sure to go well fed, nothing good will come of plummeting glucose levels, trust me from personal experience. Also, if you have room, bring a bottle of water and keep yourself hydrated. This may not seem like a concern but it will definitely help you throughout the day. Lastly, be merry. Who do you think is likely to get the last Angry Birds game, the person treating the sales associate with kindness or disrespect? Think of how you would want to be treated if you were in their shoes dealing with hundreds of last minutes shoppers every day and, tis the season!
5. Bring your own bags – Give a gift to Mother Nature this Christmas, less bags, packaging, etc., to cart to the dump on Dec. 26th. Not only is bringing your own bag good for the environment, some stores will donate the price of what a bag would have cost to a local charity!

Step 4 – Think before you buy

The holidays are the perfect time to share gifts and enjoy each other’s company, but before you do all of your holiday shopping take a minute to think of who you are buying for and what they would like. Gift giving doesn’t necessarily mean spending lots of money, or perhaps in some cases none at all. Below are some alternative ideas to ponder over before you bust out the ribbons and wrap…

1. A charitable donation (time, money, or items) – Many of us more blessed than most in the world, even in our city. Perhaps donating time with a friend or family member is something that might resonate with them. Or, perhaps directing the money you would have spent on them towards a donation of some sort would make them feel good as well as allow others to benefit. Maybe you might even want someone to do this for you instead of a traditional gift, help them out and let them know.
2. An experience – Is there something that you know someone has always wanted to do, why not make that the gift? Go cross country skiiing for an afternoon, hike in the mountains and take a picnic, take a cooking class, etc. Creating a memory is a gift that continues to give.
3. A homemade gift – Do you have a special talent that you can share with those you love? Are you an excellent cook, baker, mixed CD maker, master crafter, dog whisperer, photographer, etc.? Create a gift or give a coupon for your expertise and encourage the receiver to make plans to use it!

Step 5 – Solid stand-byes

Even with the best of intentions sometimes we are just stumped and time starts to run out. Not to worry, below is a short list of good go-to items that you can pick up in a flash and won’t break the bank.
1. A classic board game – For about $30 you can pick up Monopoly, Scrabble, Pictionary, the list goes on. Not only is it a gift that someone can keep and use for years, but in the techy world we live in sometimes it is nice to turn off the TV and spend a little family time the old fashioned way.
2. A magazine subscription – This is one of my personal favourites, it is the gift that gives all year long! Many magazine have very reasonable rates (approximately $15-$25 per year), so think of what that special someone likes and find a magazine that corresponds. This falls into something you can do online as well!
3. A household item – With the chilly winters out this way, warm up your loved ones with a variety of cold weather friendly gifts such as an iconic Hudson Bay fleece throw (approx $40), a great pine scented candle to light while watching some of the Christmas movies featured in our last few posts, a nice picture frame with a recent photo of you and your family or pets in it, a great olive oil and balsamic vinegar duo, etc., the possibilities are endless!
4. Gift cards – Although some may think this is a bit of cheat, I disagree. If you know that someone loves a restaurant, music, books, etc., then this is a great gift to give as they will get exactly what they want and will appreciate that you know what sort of things that they like. Also, gift cards are great for items that you know people may want to buy but are out of your price range. For example, your brother needs a new computer but it is out of your price range; get him a gift card to the electronics store that you know he is wanting to buy it from and add a nice note in your Christmas card to say that you wanted to help him get one step closer to bringing it home.

So there you have it, our Christmas gift giving survival kit! We hope that it helps you though the last few weeks of the holidays and allows you to have that warm fuzzy feeling inside when you are giving your gifts knowing that others will genuinely enjoy them. Best of luck and we will see you next week!

Happy holidays and enjoy the weekend!