5 Ways to be Realistic About Holiday Shopping

As you likely know, I suck at shopping for me. But when it comes to gift giving, I am in heaven. I love buying things for other people. I like asking questions to find out about things they like, don’t like, want to try, place to go and all that double-knot spy kind of stuff. I most enjoy seeing or hearing their reaction when they open their gift to find something that is really meaningful to them.

Let’s just all admit that we’ve received gifts that are meaningless to us but hold a great deal of meaning or importance to the giver. I’m not talking about the ugly necklace from your aunt that was your grandmothers that you really don’t want, will never wear, but has sentimental value. I’m also not including gifts from little kids that they made for us (but really, gold spray painted macaroni necklaces are always at the top of every mom’s list!). What I’m talking about are those gifts from our mothers-in-law that are her favorite stinky, smelly lotion and will end up in the donation bin faster than Ozzy Osbourne can say the F-word. I’m thinking of those gifts from friends or family that are either a regifted something or were bought because it was cheap, on-sale, near the cash register, or shoved in the back of the closet from 3 years ago.

Now, don’t’ get me wrong. I think re-gifting is OK under some circumstances. But that’s another blog post. Today it’s about being realistic about our holiday shopping. We can’t all rush to Neiman Marcus to pick up their newest $19,000 must-have gift. But what we can do is take some time now, before the rush and the crush, and be mindful about the gifts we’re going to give.

5 Ways To Be Realistic About Holiday Shopping

1. Decide who gets and who doesn’t – this could be budget based or logistical, but decide now who you’ll be shopping for. Write it down and really think who’s going to make the list. Make the list, check it twice. Heck, check it 200 times! But only put people on the list that you really want to buy for. Don’t buy for people because you think you have to or they buy for you or you don’t want to look cheap. You’ll look cheap and the gift will be horrible because you won’t put the time into it. This isn’t about being mean or dissing anyone. It’s about being real and having focus.

2. Set a Budget – Maybe you did this before you made your list of people. If you did, then now you get to divvy it up among all the people on your list. If you didn’t set a budget, now’s the time to do it. Whether it’s a per-person limit or an overall total, determine up front what you’re comfortable spending. Write it down, engrave it in stone, write it on your hand in sharpie, post sticky note in your house or your car or do whatever you need to remind you. If you have to take cash out of the bank, then so be it. Spend ONLY that cash. When it’s done, then so are you. And you’ll have to figure out something else. But don’t over-spend just because you’re stressed out and just pick up anything. It’s not easy to stick to a budget, but you’ll feel better if you do. Most importantly, make the budget realistic. If you don’t think spending $10 on Aunt Ella is realistic either spend more (only if you have it! Aunt Ella doesn’t want you to go into debt for her) or just give her a lovely card. If you don’t have the money, don’t spend it. Work within your means and your budget! Stay tuned here for great holiday gifts that won’t break the bank!

3. Plan ahead – what do you want that person to get from you? Have they mentioned a book or restaurant they’re looking forward to? Do they have a hobby or a passion for something that you can support? Do they need a new scarf, sweater, mug, backpack, or set of knives? Have they dropped hints? Can you go in on a bigger gift with someone else? Think about their gift for more than 62 seconds while you’re speeding through Target at 9:46pm on Christmas Eve.

4. Get Them Something THEY Want – you may think that the Dice-o-matic is awesome, but not everyone will. So don’t get it for your nephew who just got his first apartment. He won’t care and you’ll become that aunt. You may love yoga but your BFF may not want the yoga mat DVD combo you think is so great – especially since she’s never once gone to ‘bring a friend night’ even though you’ve asked her every week for the past 2 years. You may hate that your brother in law spends 3 hours a night playing Farmville but giving him a $10 gift card to play his game might make him stop sending you requests to plant corn or support his pig farm. Think about this like a business – It’s not what YOU want, it’s what the CONSUMER wants!

5. Have Fun – holiday shopping can be a drag some times. But the whole point of giving gifts is to show your love, appreciation, kindness toward others. You want them to know you care. So have fun! Think outside the box, mix things us, step outside your comfort zone. Gift recipients aren’t stupid, they know when we just get any ol’ thing for them. We give gifts because we want to (or, that’s why we should), not because we are obligated. Have fun seeing their perspective, have fun wrapping it, have fun in giving it! Think about how much fun kids have buying gifts for mom and dad, grandma and grandpa. They could buy grandpa a can of WD-40 because they know he is always fixing things, and the child is so filled with joy and excitement for this seemingly boring gift.

Whatever winter holiday you observe, regardless of whether it’s a major gift giving one or not, it’s on the calendar well in advance. There’s no ned to pretend it sneaks up on us. So let’s all get started so we can get finished and sit back and enjoy relaxing and enjoying all those other events that will take place.

I don’t profess that these 5 tips will save you time or money or sanity. But what I do believe is that being prepared goes a long way to allowing us to make better decisions. And better decision is how we save time, money and sanity!

If you have other tips, please share them! Can’t have too many tips to get us all through what is sure to be a busy time.

Sara

Mrs. Prindable’s Apples: An Apple A Day …..

Actual Mrs. Prindable's Apple Received

I was in college when I was first introduced to Mrs. Prindable’s luscious caramel and chocolate apples. These things are as big as your head! OK, not really, but they are ample to say the least.

My mom bought me my first Mrs. Prindable’s apple. It was a regular caramel apple with chocolate. I still remember it because it was so fancy and it was such a splurge. Not much has changed in these last 20-plus years. Even the prices of these beauties are still about the same. And they’re still certified kosher!

Mine arrived in a box with ice to keep it cool. That was great because it was still in the 80s here when it arrived. And it was left out front for a few hours too. I opened the shipping box to find a gorgeous purple box wrapped in bubble wrap for added protection.

Inside was a beautiful, extra large fancy caramel and 3-chocolate apple. It weight about 3 pounds! I put it in the refrigerator for a few days until CycleGuy came home for the weekend so we could all share. I’m giving like that! And, also, I knew that if I opened the package and started nibbling that I’d end up eating the whole thing. Even though it’s a large apple, I saw the serving size and knew that eating the entire tasty delight would not be prudent.

Oh, but when I did, heaven! The apple was crisp and tart to balance the sweet of the creamy and chewy caramel and all three chocolates that enrobed the apple. I followed the directions and took the apple out of the refrigerator and let it stand at room temperature about 30-minutes. Definitely sound advice. Otherwise it would be too cold and the caramel would be too hard to truly enjoy.

Years ago I would watch QVC and buy the petite Mrs. Prindable’s gift sets when they were on the special value. Everyone loved them! Really, how can you go wrong with a tasty apple and quality caramel, chocolate and other delicious toppings? And they always reminded me of my mom.

One of the things I love about Mrs. Prindable’s is that they are Kosher. I have friends that keep kosher and it’s always a challenge to find them a gift to send for the holiday that will make a gathering extra special and less stress.  Who wouldn’t want to get a jumbo apple with a dreidel? My favorite, though is the petite apple 4-pack for either Hanukkah or Christmas.

The petite apples are just so adorable. You get to try different flavor combination, and for under $30 there are several gift sets from which to choose. Really, you can’t go wrong ordering these for friends and family as a gift or as a desert for your family.

Besides the fact that I’m not a great photographer, I don’t have any pictures of the apple cut up. Why? Because if I moved away from my apple to take pictures someone, who shall remain nameless, would take my apple. All because that person is trying to keep the doctor away.  I’m not sure this is what was intended, but I’m pretty sure that my doctor wouldn’t turn one down if I were to show up with one!

If you want to give a quality gift to a colleague, or a hostess gift or to send to friends and family, you can’t go wrong with Mrs. Prindable’s.  They are the original! I’ve tasted others and I’ll stick with Mrs. Prindable’s, thank you.  You should too!

Now you’re wanting one, right? And you’re asking yourself “How do you order?”

The Mrs. Prindable’s website is easy to navigate and will make you drool so get a tissue before you go there. Also, they’re giving away an Apple a Day on their Facebook. You can read all about how you can enter to win a Mrs. Prindable’s apple.

Disclosure: My friend Kim loves me so much she sent me a Mrs. Prindable’s apple.  Actually, Kim owns Mom Impact and they work with Mrs. Prindable’s and the Mrs. Prindable’s fairies sent me one because I’m a member of Mom Impact and it is all kinds of awesome!

Sara

Get Ready For Holiday Shopping

Christmas Shop
photo credit: Brian Forbes

Evidently, the holiday shopping season has begun even though it’s the middle of September. Stores by me are already stocking ornaments  and decorative items. And, just as in years past Christmas will be on December 25th. No surprise there! Although, when I’ve been foolish enough to go to the mall on December 24th the last two years (don’t laugh, remember, I’m Jewish and I forget these things!) I’m fairly certain that there are people out shopping who are surprised that Christmas is on the 25th. As if it’s Hanukkah!  Right!

This year Hanukkah begin December 1st, so all my Jewish friends you need to get going! Unfortunately, we’ll miss out on a lot of the deals in the two weeks leading up to Christmas since Hanukkah will be over. However, I’m here to tell you that with just a little planning right now you can take advantage of both time and money savers.

Here are my 10 Tips To Get Ready for Holiday Shopping

1. Get your Holiday Card list in order now. This will allow you know how many cards you’ll need.  Boxed cards will start to appear in stores soon, so if you want the best selection get there early. If you’re doing a picture card you should select that picture or convince your family to dress in their holiday best now so you can get the picture you want so it’s all ready to go.

2. Watch here for holiday card printing deals. They should be starting soon.  But look out for deals on Daily Deal sites like Zulily where from now until 9/17 you can get a gift certificate for $50 worth of personalized cards from Tiny Prints for only $25!

3. Go buy your stamps. There aren’t many options for money savers here but if you belong to a warehouse club like Sams or Costco they often sell stamps for a teensy weensy discount.

4. Put together your shopping list and include the dollar amount you plan to spend. If you know what you want to buy, include that too. The goal here is to plan your shopping budget so that you know how much you’ll need to save or allocate.

5. Start watching the ads and websites for the things you want. You don’t have to buy now unless you know it’s a great price. Just be aware of what the prices are so you can plan. My friend Mara, she blogs at Kosher on a Budget, wrote about stockpiling gifts. She has some great tips!

6. If you’re planning on doing a cookie exchange or making crafty gifts, get your list ready and watch the sales. Craft stores routinely have discount coupons so make sure you take advantage of those money saver items. Grocery stores know that holiday baking will be under way, so get those coupon printed and clipped for butter and shortening and sugar and chocolate morsels. You should be able to get most of your baking needs on sale.

7. If you are traveling for the holidays, make note of those dates on your calendar and mark a ‘STOP’ date so you know you need to have all your shopping done by a certain date. If you don’t have until the last minute, then just adjust your planning calendar.

8. Teacher gifts. I know this is a controversial subject for many but, yes, you do need to get a gift for the teachers. Skip the mugs and the shower gel and just opt for a gift card and a pretty card. If you watch the CVS, Walgreens, Rite-Aid and Target  deals you may likely find discounts on these too. Worst case scenario is you grab a Starbucks gift card. Even a $5 card is appreciated. If you can not afford a gift, and your child is in elementary school, have your child make a special card of thanks.

9. Start saving money. Christmas and Hanukkah gifts are not an emergency. But just like an emergency fund, you can easily save for these gifts a little at a time. It’s as easy as putting a few bucks a week in an envelope in your dresser drawer. If you skip you daily drink of choice, put those few bucks in the envelope. If you take lunch instead of going out set that aside too. If you have water instead of soda at the restaurant, add that in. These are all small amounts but they can easily add up to a few hundred dollars by mid December. If date night is usually $100 and you find a way to only spend $50 then make the savings real. Same with using coupons. If you would have bought something without using a coupon, if you find a coupon then same that money. It works for online deals too. If you find a code for free shipping then make that ‘free’ part of your savings. Be mindful of what you need to achieve and you can make choices with knowledge!

10. Don’t stress! The holidays are a joyous time. If you can’t spend any money then just enjoy being with friends and family. No matter how crazy or stressed out you get, the holidays will come and go. Make the most of it and create lasting memories. It shouldn’t be about the money and the gifts and the things. Celebrate the reason for the season.

Now, are you ready to take on the holidays?

Sara