Written by Megan Soyars
I currently work at a popular bookstore, and am constantly surrounded by harried customers who are trying to complete their last-minute holiday shopping. The store is packed with people riffling through greeting cards, scanning book shelves, and grabbing random games and puzzles off the “Buy One Get One Free” table. They stagger to cash wrap and plop their purchases in front of me, sweating underneath the coats and hats they didn’t have time to take off.
“One hundred and sixty-nine dollars,” I say. They hand over the money, and I hand over their purchases, which are usually double or triple-bagged to hold the weight. Sometimes the games and coffee table books have to go in thrash bags. As I watch them stagger away, I slowly shake my head. A few days ago, I had a family visiting from Virginia buy three coffee table books and the Monopoly deluxe edition. I could barely lift their bags over the counter to hand them over.
“I dunno how we’re gonna get these on th’ plane,” the man confided to me in his slow twang as he walked away (listing slightly to the left, the side where he was carrying the shopping bags). I felt a brief twinge of pity for him, since his wife wasn’t helping him carry anything. Turning away, I called my next customer.
A young man jauntily approached the counter. He was almost whistling. At first glance, his hands seemed empty. Then I realized he was carrying six gift cards.
“Twenty-five bucks on each,” he announced. “Now my Christmas shopping is done. And I only spent ten minutes this year!”
So it seems depending on your method, holiday shopping can be an arduous ordeal or a breezy affair. Maybe you don’t have the muscle (or monetary) power to buy as many hefty gifts as my Virginia tourist did. But you don’t want to cop-out and snatch up a bunch of gift cards like the young guy did. So take the Buddha’s advice and choose the Middle Way. Here’s a couple tips for completing that last-minute holiday shopping that lets giftees know you spent time shopping for them, but also keeps your hands light and your wallet (relatively) full.
PLAN BEFORE YOU LEAVE THE HOUSE
This prevents you from becoming lost in the myriad streets of Manhattan. It also prevents impulse buying! Figure out what places you want to hit and write a list of those stores, including directions to them, what you plan to buy there, and ideally how long you plan to stay. For example, your list might look like this.
|Store:||Your Local Bookstore||A Popular Clothing Store|
|Directions:||5th Ave. b/t 45th & 46th||34th St. & 7th Ave.|
|Items:||1 book for Sally, 1 game for Rob||1 scarf for Mary, 2 shirts for Daniel|
|Time:||1 hour||2 hours|
That being said, don’t feel like you have to be restricted to your plan. As Captain Barbossa remarks in Pirates of the Caribbean, “Think of ’em more as guidelines than actual rules.” If you planned to get Sally a romance novel, but see a bestseller you know she’d like more, go ahead and get it. But remember to stay in price range if you can!
MAKE A BUDGET
Since you’re a student, you don’t exactly have a lot of disposable income. Budget yourself by conceding you can’t buy everybody you know and love a personalized Christmas gift. I generally send cards (with maybe a gift card) to everybody, but save my big buys for close friends and family.
SHOP DURING HOURS WHEN YOU KNOW THE STORE WILL BE SLOW
After working at a busy bookstore, I’ve determined what hours we experience a rush. This is lunchtime (roughly between 11:00 and 2:00) and 4:30-6:30 when everybody’s getting off work. This may seem like a convenient time to hit the stores because you can shop right around the workplace, but it’s NOT! The lines are super-long during this time, guys. The rest of the day, the store is pretty dead. So I recommend getting your shopping done in the morning before work. That way, you can breeze straight through to the front of the line.
DON’T FEEL LIKE GETTING OUT? MAKE ‘EM SOMETHING
Not only do you avoid the holiday rush, you also gain that sense of accomplishment that comes from creating something unique. Whether it’s a hand-made card or a batch of cookies, your recipient will appreciate the fact that you spent time on them. For example, I bought my boyfriend a really nice leather journal. It didn’t take too long to take it off the shelf during my lunch-break, but now I can personalize it by writing little notes.
TRY TO MAINTAIN THAT “CHILD-LIKE” WONDER OF THE SEASON
I know this sounds hokey, but it’s probably the best piece of advice I can give. When you were a kid, Christmas was the best time of the year. Mommy and Daddy (and Santa) showered presents on you. And it was so much fun giving presents back! Yeah, Mommy picked them out, but you got to do the wrapping. So remember the holidays are really about showing your friends/family how much you love them, and receiving that love in return. Be thankful you have people to share this wonderful holiday with! And truly, that is the most important gift of all.
*Also, check out Jie Jenny Zou’s helpful article, “Holiday Shopping on a College Student’s Budget, a.k.a $20″ here!
-Megan, Trinity University