Take the stress out of the holiday mess

Nicole Kurker-Stewart

After finals are over, many Quinnipiac Students will be joining the crush of holiday shoppers rushing to get their Christmas gifts bought and wrapped. This is often viewed as a daunting task, but it need not be with a little careful planning and some helpful hints.

According to a recent survey, the average American plans to spend $700 on Christmas shopping this season. This is up $30 from last year. Much of this money will be spent on the Saturday before December 25, also known as the busiest day of the holiday season, and a good day to avoid hitting the malls. Gigi Guerra, executive editor of Lucky Magazine, a publication devoted to shopping, suggests finding smaller shops with out-of-the-ordinary gifts. “Get a list of three or four different stores that you haven’t been to,” Guerra said. If you don’t have time to explore new shops, the Internet and weekly newspaper ads are other good options because you can choose items before getting into your car to buy them. That way, with something in mind, shopping goes quicker and more efficiently. “Do not go into a store blind. You don’t have to write down things on a list, but if you don’t know who you’re buying for, you’ll get distracted by the decorations,” said Guerra. Shopping at the right time is key. “Shopping off hours is good. Take a personal day from work or shop on a Thursday night. If you go when the crowds aren’t there, you’re less likely to be frustrated,” said Guerra.

Part of smart Christmas shopping means consistently keeping one’s budget in mind. “Pick an amount you can afford and then divvy it up. It’s really hard to stick to exact sums, so allow for a little bit of leeway,” said Guerra. A good rule, according to Jamie St. Anthony, 48, of Hollywood, is “If it’s not on sale, I won’t buy it.” Price is critical for all of us, so the best step to take is to first decide the total amount you are planning on spending. Then, make a list of all the people you need to purchase gifts for and divide up how much you want to spend on each person. Finally, start brainstorming ideas about what you are going to get and where you are going to get it.

If you are having trouble coming up with ideas, research a little. “Ask a friend of that person what they like. Take mental notes when you get together. And there’s nothing wrong with being direct. Just ask them what they want,” said Guerra. A recent survey determined that top of the list of what consumers want to receive this year are clothing, books, CDs, DVDs, and gift cards.

For a personal touch, package several items together to create themed gifts. St. Anthony said he plans playing up the theme of entertainment, a big focus this year, by purchasing movie theater vouchers, gift certificates to local events, and soundtrack CDs.

Of course, there are always those people we know who have everything. In that case, says St. Anthony, “I take them out for food, because everyone has to eat.”

One not-so-pleasant aspect of holiday shopping is the frenzy and rush that induces stress and can drive the best of us crazy. Not everyone loves to shop. “A lot of women love it as a sport, but I can’t stand it,” said St. Anthony. Guerra, however, is one of these women and offers her tips to make the experience much more enjoyable. ‘Ask a friend who’s opinion you trust to come with you, don’t hesitate to buy something for yourself if you stumble across a must-have deal and save the toy shopping for last, as it can be the most fun, and you’ll have something to look forward to,” Guerra said. With any luck, armed with these tips, this holiday season won’t be as stressful and we can all relax and enjoy the holidays all the more.