Instead of just making a Christmas list and checking it twice . . .or three times, take a moment to make a dynamic checklist that will really help you prepare for the holidays.
Break Your Christmas List Into Useful Sections
By the time you’re ready to head out shopping, you probably know most of the people you’re buying for and what you’ll probably be getting. So, why not break your list into sections based on the stores you’ll be visiting, or the types of gifts you’ll be buying, instead of associating gifts with names. Since you’ll be getting dad, your brother, and your son a gift at the electronics store, group the gifts together by type. That way you’ll know which stops you can consolidate to take full advantage of freebies like no cost shipping for online purchases, or discounts for minimum purchases. When you start to look at your Christmas list in different ways, new ideas will occur to you, too.
If you’re tech savvy, try putting your Christmas checklist into a spreadsheet or word processing program and sort on different categories. You’ll probably be surprised at what you come up with. For example, if you know you’re headed to a variety store for three items, and a minimum purchase will get you 10% off, knowing that ahead of time might entice you to buy a few rolls of Christmas wrap there too. Having the info before you head out the door can save you money, gas, and time.
Do Your Christmas Homework First
Read your local paper and online offers for deals before you buy. Comparison shopping pays off particularly well in a weak economy, and taking ten minutes to check around for the lowest price might save you a trip if you frequent retailers that match competitors pricing. If a shop doesn’t advertise that it matches pricing, ask anyway. It can’t hurt.
Another way doing your homework will help you is in buying complex merchandise. Keeping a list of the features you’re interested in will make buying your new camera, television or other tech device easier. Are you unclear on some of the facts, even after reading about the products? That’s what sales clerks are there for. Ask questions, and make a note of their answers.
Don’t just ask the price; ask the sales clerk to describe the features of the product and explain why it’s the best one out there for the money. If he can’t explain the features in clear language that you can understand, try somewhere else. It’s amazing how a brief spoken explanation brings all those numbers and complicated technical terms into sharp focus. A pencil and notepad are all you need to get a good education and find the best people to do business with.
Don’t Forget the $$$$
It’s easy to mark items on your list after looking at them in the paper or online and then forgetting to mark down the price. If you’re just tracking down one item, you’ll probably remember, but with a long Christmas checklist, it’s a good idea to mark the target price right on your list and make sure it rings up correctly on the cash register at checkout. Carrying all the ads with you may seem like a good idea, but shuffling through a pile of different sized clippings gets old fast.
If your finances are limited, run the numbers before you head out. If you know you have to stretch a certain number of dollars over ten presents, keep a running total as you go. Don’t be caught short.
Get Your Christmas Shopping Done in a Day With a Timeline
Making a list is about saving time and not forgetting anything. When you embark on a shopping expedition, you are making a linear journey, so organize your list that way. Mark down your first stop, second stop, and so on. If you are going to a department store, group items by department. The same goes for the grocery store. Make a really useful Christmas checklist by grouping your items in the order in which you’ll be putting them in the cart. Try starting with the dry goods and grabbing refrigerated and frozen purchases last.
Hey, if you start early enough, are organized enough, and have the energy, you can get everything finished in a day, right?
Watch Your Holiday Driving
Put your list together with geography in mind. Don’t drive in circles. Be as efficient with your driving strategies as you are with your other Christmas planning. It’ll save you gasoline and time. Hit the mall early if you can, and avoid those hazardous peak times that can result in fender benders, road rage and Christmas shopping stress.
Make a plan, write it out, and keep it handy. You’ll have a safer and more economical holiday if you’re organized. It’ll be more fun too.