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Holiday Help: Budgeting, Shopping & Traveling – Part 2 of a 4 Part Series

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If by now, early October, you don’t yet have a list of persons you’re planning to give gifts to this holiday season, take a moment and read our Holiday Help: Getting Started – Part 1 of a 4 Part Series.

In that post, I ask a number of questions to help determine your Christmas 2016 ‘who, where and when’ .  Gifting can quickly get complicated in our mobile, merged, multi-generation families and a bit of upfront planning and discussion can make the ‘what’ and ‘how’ of gifting much easier to handle.

As we proceed to budgeting, shopping and traveling recognize and accept this:  your plans are just plans. Even if your Getting Started list is perfect and fully discussed, there are hundreds of variables that will impact your acquisition of those gifts and the travel to your celebratory locations.  Here are a just a few:  weather that hampers travel, unexpected financial emergencies, unanticipated illness or injury (even the simplest of illness, injury at the wrong time can become an issue), the ability of online retailers and delivery services to meet your expectations and more.

So, why do we plan and budget?  Because without a plan, your sanity, relationships, stress level and financial control are all a free-for-all;  a plan, even with the undesired need to adjust it is healthier for all involved and puts you in the driver’s seat.

Starting with the who’s on your gift list, quickly brainstorm what you’d like to give that individual and an estimated cost.  Do the same with the travel.  If you need help with estimating the cost, use online tools but recognize some online pricing is designed to lure you into an immediate purchase.  Resist that temptation until you completed your budgeting.  Force yourself to put a gift and dollar value next to everyone person’s name on your list. Next tally up your spending based on those quick estimates.

If the total amount to be spent is within your budget, great.  All you’ll need to do is stick to your plan when you shop.  But for most of us, we tend to be more generous than we can wisely afford.  If this is true of your list and estimate, start by sharpening your pencil, do a bit more research on options and pricing, and possibly re-think another gift.

As you’re looking for ways to reduce your spending ask yourself whether there persons on your list that spend time together that could be given a great group gift?  We tend to think of individual gifts but many times a group gift is enjoyed more.

Now you need to get those gifts.  so start by planning your shopping.  Get the items within your budget that might have limited availability first.  Then plot your acquisition strategy to maximize your time, mileage and patience.  Before driving 35 minutes to the mall make sure you’ve identified all the mall gifts that need to be obtained.  While online shopping tends to be easier than the old fashioned brick and mortar store, you might benefit a stroll through a few of them.  I often find inspiration and new trends when I’m in a physical store and it always helps me to get into a festive holiday mood.  Observing brick and mortar pricing and selections can also help refine your list and budget. Use your judgement to determine if the current day’s price is likely to be the best price or will there be a sale?  If so, will that item still be available?

Determine if your ‘acquisition’ style is to spend a full day shopping and getting it all done or if you’re a slow and steady style shopper picking up one thing here another here and comparing both to online options. And as always do investigate and evaluate the retailer’s return policy.

Don’t forget about the ever popular Small Business Saturday which this year is Saturday, November 26, 2016.  SBS is the first Saturday after Thanksgiving and has been named and promoted by American Express since 2010.  We all know that Black Friday is the crazy early morning, late night shopping spree that historically follows Thanksgiving. Also online shoppers will hit the keyboards and tablets heavy on the Monday following Small Business Saturday know as Cyber Monday.  Pay attention to a store’s pre-Thanksgiving prices and specials.  Big Box and online retailers will start to reveal their deep discounts on a handful of items to get your attention (and business) 7-10 days before Thanksgiving.  At the same time Independent retailers  will reach out to you via emails, post cards, radio ads, event marketing to get a slice of your attention (and business).  Use your leverage as the buyer to get the best price from an independent retailer – ask if a particular item will be discounted after Thanksgiving and if so do they have a sufficient number or are they willing to discount the item in advance?  At Gifts To Go, we’re hosting a Holiday Open House with several discounts for same day purchases.  We also hold two week long sales on our popular Willow Tree items of 20% and will honor that discount during our Holiday Open House as well.

Start planning that holiday travel now as well.  Especially if you’re traveling by air, train or bus or renting a car as it will feel as though the entire country is traveling with you.  Seats will quickly become scarce and expected them to be pricey.

Finally, if you’re cooking or entertaining, get your menus planned and shopping lists created as the grocers will also be competing for your business and a plan will let you take advantage of great sales especially on non-perishables.

As with any well organized project, a good plan guides your actions and better equips you for those pesky adjustments that will most assuredly happen along the way to your envisioned holiday celebration.

By next month, you’ll have acquired a number of gifts and be ready to focus on shipping and gift presentation.  Here’s to a great plan!

 

 

 

 

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Yes, I Call Gifts To Go Home

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Yes, I Call Gifts To Go Home

Today a frequent shopper/shipper asked me if I felt that I spent my life at the shop.

Yes, I spend six days each week working at the little gift shop and post office that we’re growing.  While that might sound overwhelming to some, I have always enjoyed my work and now that I’m nurturing this growing retail infant, I rarely see it as work.  I see it as coaching, championing, feeding, housekeeping and assessing.  Sometimes I see it as frustrating or trying but that happens when you nurture something.

However, I am not without some sense  of the trendy concept of work-life balance.  The members of my family living in Arizona reside in the same house that I do; I look forward to seeing them every night and every morning and if possible anytime throughout the day.

In terms of family representing the concept of home,  my mom helped me get this gift shop post office started and I often look at the post office space and see her, talk to her and spend a few moments being grateful that I was her daughter and that even though I was reluctant to start a gift shop she prodded me along the way.

My husband drives many miles each day to go to a job where he then drives throughout the state.  One of the primary reasons he does this is so that we have health insurance.  He works with me every Saturday, does my banking, delivers gift baskets and picks up my supplies throughout the state. He hangs my flags, fixes my signs and much more.

My brother is my straightforward, fully honest gift basket design evaluator.  If he likes it, it’s good.  If he doesn’t like it, it needs to be scrapped and he doesn’t waste any time letting me know that.

I am humbled to have them all and chances are I spend more time with my family than most who proclaim  ‘work-life balance’  success.  Clearly our heart-strings are shorter than those of many families I know.

Yet, I often need to prodded.  I tend to be the frog put into a cold pot of water that stays in the pot for far too long as the temperature of the water increases.  Perhaps the day will come when I’m the frog in the gift shop water that I haven’t noticed is growing warmer and warmer.  Until that time, I’ll be loving my job at Gifts To Go and  grateful to my family for helping me ‘live’ here.