I’m not a shopper. I am antithetically female in the sense that a day shopping comes nowhere close to nirvana for me. Shoe addiction? Forget it. I have 3 pairs of loafers (2 black, one brown) and a handful of pairs of pumps from back in the 90s when I thought I should dress for success. If I need something, be it for the house, my kids or myself, I decide what I want in advance, and make the fastest, dirtiest trip that I can to go out and get it.
So because I’m not a shopper, Christmas is an interesting time for me. I love the idea of choosing the perfect gift for a cherished friend or family member; I love turning the plain little box into a perfectly wrapped specimen of holiday opulence; I just don’t love actually going out and buying said item.
My oldest sister shops and collects things all year long. The result is a wonderfully stress-free December, but also, often, gifts that look like they were bought months ahead of time, amassed in a storage room somewhere, and assigned somewhat randomly to recipients as mailing day approaches. It’s a little like the mystery gifts we used to get from my old Auntie Ruby: bizarre, but always fun, but it’s not the approach I want to take.
I, on the other hand, tend to do all my shopping sometime after the Santa Claus parade – that is to say, late November at best. The one year I thought I would shop early, I went about 237% over budget and come March I was still finding gifts I’d bought but forgotten about. Since that year, I’ve perfected a new plan of attack: sometime after my birthday, I send out an e-mail to my family, begging for Christmas ideas (because as much as I love giving the perfect gift, I couldn’t possibly be expected to figure out what that might be on my own). Once they have been sufficiently harassed to have responded, I make my list (in Excel, of course) of each person, the gift and the store where I expect to find it. It’s all very scientific, you know.
Today was the day. The kids were with their grandparents for a few hours and I was on my own. You have to understand that this never happens. Never. So I was bloody well going to make as much hay as I could while that dim sun was shining. Armed with my list, and my 2009 secret weapon, I headed out to the shops.
And what is my secret weapon? Gift cards! I am so bloody proud of myself for this one. Living far away from friends and family, and with postal rates going, well, postal, I tend to receive a lot of gift cards, but because I’m not much for shopping (see above), I tend not to use them, but rather to let them collect in a drawer for months or years. This year, I cleaned out my gift card drawer and lined up my shopping to correspond with the cards I found. When all was said and done, I had several people crossed off my list, for free!
I’ll admit that I felt a little uncomfortable about it at first; after all, the cards were purchased for me (and in some cases for Gee, but what he doesn’t know won’t hurt him). But the way I see it, it will all come out in the end. I spent my gift cards on other people, and down the road I will spend my own cash on me. See? All’s fair in shopping and recessions.
I’ve heard of some people going even further with this: cashing in rewards points and spending them on gifts. I think it’s a great idea, except that when I checked into what I could get with my HBC rewards points I found out that I’m a few hundred thousand short of getting much of anything. I’m thinking I have enough Shopper’s Optimum points to trade in…if only I can figure out how to convince my brother-in-law that what he really wants for Christmas is holly-scented hand lotion.