Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Christmas Shopping...Already

Well, I was gonna wait on this. There were really other things I need to write about after an absence of a few weeks while life caught up with me. But November is here, and I’ve already seen a flurry of Facebook posts about Christmas shopping, so why not just do it now.

And don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against starting to think about Christmas shopping right after Halloween. November 1st is when the credit union moves the money from my Holiday Club account over to my Spending Money account, so it’s sort of like they’re saying “Gentlemen, start your engines!” Forget Black Friday, November 1st is the beginning of the season for me.

So let’s start with thinking about Black Friday…before it gets here. I really have no memories of shopping on Black Friday when I was a kid…or even when I was in college. Black Friday shopping was something I embraced after I got married. I mean, first of all, I had the day off, so why not do it. Second of all, for me, Black Friday in Syracuse was like a regular Wednesday back in Jersey, where I come from. So I was like “Crowds? What crowds?” I liked the idea of getting most of my shopping done in one day and then having the rest of the next four weeks to just pick up a little thing here or there.

But in the last few years, we seem to have gone overboard with it. I thought that queuing up with the people waiting in line at Target at 4am was fun…I had my iPod with me, so I could listen to an audiobook while I waited in my soccer chair, wrapped up in a thermal sleeping bag. But now…pushing it back to midnight, or even Thanksgiving evening just seems ridiculous. Can we give the people who work retail a little time to spend with their own families?

So when I heard that Costco and Nordstrom, two stores at opposite ends of the spectrum, were going to be closed on Thanksgiving, I applauded.

And then outdoor apparel and sporting goods retailer REI upped the ante by saying that they’d be closed on Black Friday…under the hashtag #OptOutside…so that people could actually use the equipment they sell.

Well heck! I had specifically taken off Black Friday this year so I could do my shopping. But based on REI’s decision, I decided to take one for the team, and stay home. I’m not so sure about going outside though…it’ll likely be a little cold for that. On the other hand, the nice climate-controlled mall is an excellent place to take a nice long walk…if you can get a parking space.

Then there were the Facebook posts about the Advent Conspiracy, the 4 Gift Christmas Challenge, and IKEA’s The Other Letter, which were supposed to make you rethink your gift-giving habits (by the way...the IKEA ad didn't mention their products even once). I sort of liked The 4 Gift Christmas Challenge, but I thought that we already had a simpler and more flexible system in place in our family, which I’d like to share with you.

I’ve already mentioned the movement of money from the Holiday Club account into Spending Money. We have a certain amount of money from each paycheck automatically go there, and that’s the amount of money we’ll spend on everything Christmas-related…except for travel. We put that money onto a bunch of Visa or Amex Gift Cards, and use those for shopping. That way we never accidentally dip into regular money, and stick to the Christmas budget (except for food gifts, which sneak in under the radar when we go grocery shopping).

Then, when we shop, there’s a limit of how much money we’ll spend on each person. Currently that limit is $150 for immediate family members, $75 for each of our parents, about $30 for certain friends, and $100 for the Salvation Army tree. We negotiated cutting out our siblings and their kids a while back. Obviously, this means that no one’s getting a laptop for Christmas; and if you want an iPad, we’ll give you a $100 Apple Store gift card toward it, and put $50 of tangible stuff under the tree.

So while it may seem a little early in the season to be thinking about Christmas shopping, it’s not to early to be thinking about thinking about it. Black Friday is not the day to start thinking about change if change is what you want to do…now is the acceptable time.

So check out some of the links here, consider the system we use; and I’ll be back in a few weeks to explain why I think that children need to buy actual presents for people, and not just buy a flock of ducks in their name from The Heifer Project.

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