Monday, December 1, 2008

Christmas Shopping on Budget

I've been doing quite a bit of my holiday shopping lately. Fortunately I already had the money set aside for Christmas so it has just been a matter of setting a holiday budget and sticking to it.

The first thing I did was sit down with a spreadsheet and start a section for each person that I am going to buy for. My sister and I had already determined Christmas spending limits for family, so that was easy for them, then I just had to decide on how to split up the rest among friends. For each person I have a "Limit" field, all the fields total up at the bottom to the amount I allocated to spend this year. Now, each time I make a purchase I type it in under the person's name along with how much I spent. I set a up a few different formulas so at a glance I can tell how much I have spent on each person, how much I have spent in total, and how much I have remaining. It took a little work to set up all the calculations, but once it was done, it practically runs itself. I just have to remember to keep track of what I buy!

I am doing some hardcore bargain hunting though - making each dollar streeeeeeeeetch as far as it can. I'm using ebates and online coupons and anything I can find, but I am not shopping needlessly. I made my list and I am sticking to it, I'm just trying to find various ways of getting my items as low cost as I can. Wouldn't it be great if I could come in at under my Christmas budget? I've been doing the majority of my shopping online, which I love - especially if I can also score free shipping. That way I can avoid the crowds and the commercialism of the mall and packages arrive with holiday cheer - delivered to my office.

This weekend I went out for the first time on Black Friday in years. Truthfully, that kind of shopping isn't my thing. I get a bit weirded out by crowds, (just reading Passive Family Income's tale about shopping at Walmart gave me the shivers.) My sister and I spent a relaxing hour going through the ads on Thanksgiving and while I found a few things that I would like personally, I didn't find much that I wanted I wanted to buy other people. Who am I going to buy a tv for?? Personally, I tend to shop at unusual locations or websites. I did, however, see a couple of bargains I wanted... at Ace Hardware and CVS. I didn't even leave the house until 1:00 p.m., and while a few of the CVS treasures I wanted were sold out, they were small things that will undoubtedly be on sale again. Neither store was crowded and I was able to get in and get out with a minimum of fuss. Perfect!

I am going to be braving the holiday shopping crowds on Thursday night. A friend of mine and I are going to the "Shop Hop," a local event put on by small independently owned neighborhood retailers. I've gone the last few years. While some of these tiny eclectic stores do get a bit crowded, they also offer live music, beverages and food to curb the pain. And frankly it is fun - I always find a few unusual items for folks, and even if I don't, it is a very festive night out. I am looking forward to it!

I just glanced again at my budget - it looks like every person but one is over halfway done, and some are almost complete. Yay! I love that - it will give me more time to enjoy the season and less time in icy winter weather trying to find a parking spot at some generic retailer. My decorations (all but the Christmas tree) are up, and the trees here are full of snow. It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas...

Photo by: Chris_J

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