Feel festive, not frazzled

Feel festive, not frazzled

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Giving gifts to special people in our lives should feel good.  The reality is that planning and shopping for festive gifts can leave you feeling frazzled and festively void! We’ve hit that time of year when retailers are spinning their holiday season marketing madness. That means it’s time to take a deep breath, put on the kettle, put the marketing hype aside and start planning.

Giving gifts does not have to be a costly or mind-boggling exercise. Below are some planning tips and suggestions to ease you into the festive spirit as you go about your Christmas gift planning.

Collaborate and celebrate

Before you start drafting your Christmas gift list, it may be time to break some new ground with family and friends and ease everyone’s financial burden at the same time. You may be starting to transition to retirement, or have already retired. Your annual budget is most likely a known entity. You’ve earned your right to have a say! If you’re buying individual gifts for many family members and friends, they’re most likely doing the same and feeling the same pressure to try and keep to a sensible budget.

Consider the following collaborative ideas for reducing the quantity of gifts purchased:

  • Suggest a Kris Kringle or Secret Santa where each person buys just one gift for a randomly selected recipient. There are many ways of making this work well, from randomly picking a name or gender from a hat, to allowing gift swaps once gifts are opened. Agree some basic guidelines so everyone understands how it will work and who they are buying a gift for.
  • Suggest an age cut off for Christmas gifts for children. For example, once a child reaches 12 they no longer receive gifts from extended family members.
  • Suggest that adults only purchase gifts for children, not other adults.
  • Set a very low dollar limit for any gifts exchanged. A $5 limit will encourage loads of creativity.
  • Agree a theme, for example homemade gifts or plants. Or create your own gift vouchers to exchange services to help each other out through the year. An example may be giving someone a voucher where you will offer to spend a week weeding their garden, or cook a candlelit dinner.
  • Pick a charity that you all want to give to. Rather than buy each other gifts, agree to collectively gather a small cash donation from each family member or friend and donate to a worthy cause. If you can’t agree on which charity, throw the names of a number of causes into a hat and randomly select one.
  • Buy a group gift instead of individual gifts to improve the overall quality of the gift you can afford to give, and reduce the number of individual gifts you need to plan to buy.

...making a list and checking it twice...

Once you know exactly who you are buying for, it’s time to start planning your gift list before you start roaming the shops or browsing online retailers.

Think about the last time you went grocery shopping without a list. You’ll always overspend and end up with items you don’t really need. You should apply the same rules to gift shopping. Know your overall budget limit, write your list, allocate your budget, shop around to find the best prices and then make your purchase. Don’t forget to add in the cost of wrapping paper and sticky tape.

Don’t pay full price

Here are some tips for keeping prices of gifts down:

  • Start stashing those catalogues that are clogging your mailbox. Flipping through catalogues can help give you gift ideas and gauge an expected retail price.
  • If you are planning on shopping online, use a search engine such as Google or Yahoo to compare prices. If you use the keywords ‘compare price’ or ‘best price’ before the item you are looking at buying, you’ll often find websites that provide details of the best current online price for the item at that moment in time. Some of these websites offer a tool where you can register to have the latest ‘best price’ emailed to you.
  • If you’re over 55 and have a Seniors Card take a look at the Discount Directory to see if any retailers may offer you Senior’s discounts. Alternatively, ask about Senior’s discounts when you walk into a store.
  • Take advantage of ‘deal sites’ for heavily discounted products or services. These are online marketing websites that offer special one-off prices on products or services as part of an advertising strategy. The savings to you as a consumer can be substantial and the options on offer really broaden your gift idea choices. Examples of deal sites include LivingSocial.com.au, scoopon.com, spreets.com, groupon.com, catchoftheday.com just to name a few.
  • Factory outlets are a great way to find well known brands at discounted prices.
  • Don’t forget the power of negotiating at the point of sale. Most retailers will offer their sales staff some room to move on price, particularly if you’re paying cash. Try it next time you shop and you may be surprised at the outcome.

What on earth do I buy my grandchildren?

You probably recall the trends in games and toys from your school years – from marbles to knuckles to hopscotch.  Turnover of trends in toys and games continue to change in the blink of an eye. We were going to publish a Top 5 Toys of the moment here, but quickly realised that by the time we published, the list would have changed!

So how can you keep your finger on the pulse of what’s hot and what’s not?

Here are some tips to help you navigate through:

  • Ask the parents what your grandchildren’s interests are. Better still, ask your grandchildren next time you speak with them.
  • Ask a sales assistant at a toy retailer. They’ll be able to point you in the right direction based on age and interests.
  • If you are online, take a look at some independent toy reviewers. Parents Choice and itsagoodtoy are examples of these.
  • A good toy is one that encourages imagination. Don’t overlook some of the oldies but goodies such as building block sets or construction sets, board games, puppets, construction clays and moulds and outdoor play activities. Head to a local craft market if you’d like to find a traditional toy. There’s often some gems produced by local artisans that want to keep the spirit of imagination alive.

And most importantly – you’ve worked hard to reach your retirement years, enjoy them. Plan your Christmas budget early, take comfort in the knowledge that the wisdom of years has taught you and take pleasure in sharing some well earned leisure time with family and friends.

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