Let’s get this straight — I suck at Christmas shopping.
In fact, I suck at shopping of any kind. I’m just not very good at it. I’m more comfortable sat in a coffee shop with my laptop writing for a living. That comes naturally. Trawling around shops looking for stuff to buy for myself (let alone others) is a task I dread.
Unfortunately, this is the time of the year when that task turns into a necessity. I have no choice — I have to head to the shops (digital or otherwise) in order to buy Christmas present for those closest to me.
If this all sounds rather familiar and you too suffer from shopaphobia (I think that’s a thing — at least, it is now), I’ve got some good news. Over the last couple of years I’ve been working on my Christmas shopping game and I’m proud to say it has improved considerably, because I’ve learned some neat tricks.
I’d like to share those tricks with you today.
1. Make a definitive recipient list (and be brutal)
A mistake I made early on in my Christmas shopping career was to maintain a colossal gift list. There were all manner of people on there — colleagues, distant cousins and friends who, to be honest, stopped being ‘real’ friends quite some time ago.
I now only buy for people for whom I deem Christmas presents most appropriate. That means my wife, parents, dog and nephew.
This sounds brutal, but it actually works for everyone; those for whom I don’t buy a present do the same for me, therefore we all save a bit of cash at this expensive time of they year.
2. Buy boring (it’s often what people want)
I’ll use my dad as an example here. For years, I’d spend forever trying to find something unique and unusual to buy him, but always failed. And you know why? It’s because he doesn’t need anything quirky, but he does appreciate receiving gifts that enable him to indulge in the activities he loves.
Sometimes, the simplest, most boring present ideas are the best, and are certainly far easier to find.
3. Make use of Black Friday and other seasonal sales
Black Friday is the biggest sales day of the year and takes place in both the US and UK towards the end of November. When searching for those presents, grab this day with both hands — you’ll save a fortune and can conduct the entire shopping trip from your sofa.
There are other seasonal sales, too, and if you don’t mind leaving things until the last minute (often a risky endeavor), you may just find some bargains online that you simply won’t find on the high street.
4. Ask people what they want
If you’re still struggling with ‘buying boring’ and simply can’t think of anything to buy a certain someone who means a lot to you, you can do a lot worse than ask them. We’ve all smiled through gritted teeth as we accept a present we simply don’t need or want, so to avoid putting someone through that, find out what they want.
Their first response is likely to be “oh, don’t worry about that — I don’t want anything!”, but persist, and explain you really want to buy them something. They’ll soon drop their guard, give you a lead into what they desire and, hey presto — you’ve saved yourself serious time!
5. Wrapping up (excuse the pun)
What, were you expecting more tips? That really is it. And you know why? If you follow the four principals above, Christmas shopping is blindingly simple. It just requires honesty, common sense and the ability to be brutal with your recipient list.
You can do it!