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Christmas Shopping Tips

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'Tis the season to fight the crowds and do your Christmas shopping. If you're like most people, just the thought of this will probably make you cringe in fear. If you're not looking forward to hectic holiday shopping, relax, here are some practical tips to help you avoid common hassles.

Don't Wait Until the Last Minute

Are you one of those people who adds to your own stress level by doing last minute Christmas shopping? Do you know better, but it seems to happen anyway?

Look at it this way... When you shop on Christmas Eve you're going to have to fight the crowds, choose from limited merchandise, and wait in long lines. Buy your gifts little by little, beginning in November, and you can avoid last-minute shopping fiascos.

Shop in Off-Peak Hours

Most stores aren't very busy early in the morning or late at night. Shop at slow times and you can forgo the crowds and long lines. Better yet, find some stores that are open 24 hours.

My brother does his Christmas shopping into the wee hours of the night. He can often get most of his shopping done in a single trip because the aisles aren't blocked and there's much less stress involved.

Take a List

Start your Christmas list early in the season. When the holidays near, keep a pen and paper handy to write down all of your gift ideas. Always take that checklist with you when you go shopping This way, you'll know exactly what you need to buy and you'll be less likely to forget anything.

Set a Budget

Are you still paying for Christmas gifts in January and February? Work out a budget and stick to it. Buy only affordable gifts and you'll find it much easier to pay off your holiday credit card debt.

Look for Sales

Watch ads and Black Friday ads and be on the lookout for in-store holiday sales. You can save a pretty good chunk of money because almost anything you may want to buy eventually goes on sale. Still, there are some things that won't and you'll need to decide whether to get it while it's available. Sometimes, you have to pay more for things you really want.

If you're up to it, consider taking advantage of "After Christmas Sales" to get wrapping supplies and gifts for next year. You'll have to put up with the crowds, but it may be worth the money you'll be saving and the satisfying feeling it gives.

Buy Extra Gifts

Find some "generic" items on sale that can be for a man or a woman, and purchase a couple of extras. Wrap them up and put a sticky note on the box stating what the item is. This way you'll always be prepared if someone unexpectedly gives you a gift, and you can avoid any embarrassment or hurt feelings by returning the favor.

Shop Online

Every year, more and more people shop from the comfort of their own home. All of your favorite stores are here online, so get your list and buy your Christmas presents at a leisurely pace to avoid the stress. Most online stores offer simple navigation and secure shopping.

The benefits to online shopping are additional security using your credit card and no sales tax if the company doesn't have a store in your state. Look for special deals that allow free shipping or discounts that will offset the shipping fees. (Usually the sales tax savings alone will do this.) When you shop online, you can find out instantly if an item is in stock, and you'll find a receipt right in your email inbox after the transaction.

Save Receipts

Be prepared for broken items, wrong sizes and duplicate gifts. Always save shopping receipts for 90 days after your purchase. This is about how long stores will allow a returns for unwanted items.

Reward Yourself

Finally, treat yourself to a special lunch or buy a small token for a job well-done. Christmas shopping isn't near so bad if you acknowledge your accomplishments and reward yourself with something inexpensive and fun.





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