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Ease Shopping Burdens With Organized Planning
By Allison Powe
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- As holiday excitement builds, so do the stress levels for many shoppers faced with the hassles of finding Christmas gifts.
The Christmas frenzy doesn't have to make shopping a burden. Organization and creativity are keys for handling the holiday season.
Dr. Beverly Howell, extension family economics specialist at Mississippi State University, said starting early is the ideal way to handle Christmas shopping.
"When you wait until the last few days before Christmas to begin shopping, you have fewer options to choose from," Howell said.
Early shoppers find stores not as picked over and they are not under as much pressure to make quick decisions.
"Organization helps consumers manage not only their time, but their money as well. Decide ahead which gifts to search for, and make a list to help stay focused," Howell said.
"Making a list helps you to determine a reasonable budget. The sooner you start, the more choices you have about how to handle holiday costs," she said.
Creativity can play a big role in finding perfect Christmas gifts. For shoppers on a strict budget and those shopping for the person who already seems to have everything, creative thinking can be their best resource.
"Gift giving doesn't necessarily mean a dollar sign has to be attached. Unique presents created by using your own time and talents are often the most meaningful gifts of all," Howell said.
"Baked goods are always special, but there are many other creative ways to come up with gifts that don't necessarily cost alot of money," she said.
Homemade coupons for various things such as mowing lawns or taking a person shopping are especially valuable to the elderly and others who have difficulty doing some things for themselves.
"Gifts centered around someone's hobbies or interests are usually appreciated very much. Making an effort to find out about a person's pleasures can result in gift ideas that are affordable and sure to be liked," Howell said.
Ordering gifts through the mail is an ideal way to save time and avoid the hassles of crowds.
Howell said consumers should apply the same rules to mail ordering as they would when shopping in a store.
"Don't forget to compare prices when looking through catalogues. Also check out return policies and delivery fees, and be sure to allow enough time for the gift to arrive before Christmas," Howell said.
Keep the original budget in mind when shopping on credit. Consider how holiday credit bills will affect the overall budget when these payments are due.
"Above all, when you plan Christmas shopping, keep in mind that gifts are only one part of the holiday expenses to be considered. The costs of entertaining, traveling and decorating can also add up," Howell said.
"Planning early and making lists to organize and prioritize expenses will help consumers avoid holiday stress and ensure they are able to have the kind of holiday they want," Howell said.