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The Quick Holiday Shopping Guide for Guys

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Photo: nigel@hornchurch

If you’re lacking one X chromosome, shopping is probably not your thing. So stop pretending you’re good at it or trying to convince your other half you actually enjoy it. Let’s view it as a necessary evil that must be done. And since it must be done, it’s best to get it over with quickly. We’ll show you how you can start now and be done a month ahead of time.

When it comes to holiday shopping you should set two goals for yourself:

Get it over with as quickly as possible.
Don’t bury yourself in credit card debt.

Think about the cost of haphazard, disorganized holiday shopping. If you put $1,000 worth of holiday shopping on a credit card and then only make the minimum payment every month, it would take more than eight years to pay it off. By the time you pay off that year’s gifts, Call of Duty II is going to look like Space Invaders. So follow these steps to getting your shopping done by December 1st without spending a small fortune.

November 23rd: Make a spending plan.

Break up your purchasing into four categories

Girlfriend/wife
Friends/family
Business associate/clients/customers
Non-gift spending – food for parties, booze, decorations.

Allocate a dollar amount you’re comfortable with and try to stick as close as possible to those limits. Over the next few days, keep a running tally of the amount you spend so you stay aware of your limit. Also, keep in mind these tips:

Lower expectations. To certain people, suggest not exchanging gifts this year or drop hints that you’ve been too busy to shop. That way, when you present them with their gift (which might be somewhat less expensive this year) they’ll be surprised at how thoughtful you are.
Don’t go overboard on the new girlfriend. She might be history in two months and you’ll still be paying off that bangle bracelet three girlfriends later. Wives are a different story of course.
Don’t forget business associates and clients. If you don’t usually buy for them, you should start. People remember small acts of generosity and you’ll be paid back in full eventually. Think of it as an investment.

November 24th: Reconnaissance

The Tuesday before Thanksgiving is a great night to visit stores to gather information. Head to the mall, the big box stores (Wal-Mart, Target), and the membership stores (Costco, BJs) if you belong to one.

Your goal here is to jot down 2 or 3 ideas for each person on your list and then write down the price of each item. Don’t buy anything yet.

November 25th: The Internet

Now you can check the prices of the items you’ve identified against other stores and websites. Sometimes you’ll find the same item cheaper at a different store.
Sometimes the internet will be as cheap or cheaper and offer free shipping. (Amazon.com offers free shipping on many purchases over $25). If that’s the case, then head to shopping cart. The goal isn’t to find the perfect gift (usually there’s no such thing). It’s to find a good gift at the best price.

Also, scour the papers and circulars (or online) for Black Friday deals. Some of the bigger stores have already released their doorbuster specials (those are the ones where you risk getting trampled by the other budget-conscious freaks at 5 AM the morning after Thanksgiving). Check out http://www.black-friday.net/.

November 27th: Black Friday

If you see something that jumps out at you then get up early and jump into the fray. If you’re shopping for electronic gadgets (camcorders, laptops, video games, TVs) then Black Friday morning might be your deal.

Between Black Friday and your online shopping the day before, you should be halfway finished.

November 28th: Pull the Trigger

If you’re not halfway finished this morning, then you need to be more than that by the end of the day. Review your list again. You know those people who are hard to buy for? They don’t get any easier between today and December 24th.

Keep in mind:

· Avoid service contracts. Electronics and jewelry stores will try to sell you some kind of warranty that will fix the item if it breaks. They’re usually not worth it.
· Avoid using department store cards. The interest rate on those cards is usually much higher than your traditional VISA. If they are offering a discount for signing up for a card when you bring your purchases to the counter, only take advantage if the savings are big and if you can pay off the balance when you get your first statement. Otherwise, the amount of interest you’ll end up paying will wipe out any discount they give you.

November 29th: Discount Liquors

You’re going to be invited to parties so you should bring a bottle of wine when you go. You might be hosting a party yourself. You might want to give out a bottle or two of wine or good Scotch to those special clients. You’ve got Christmas Eve, New Years Eve, the college Bowl season, and the NFL playoffs and Super Bowl right around the corner.

Let’s be honest. By early February, your liver’s going to feel like it took a few shots from that girl on the University of New Mexico’s soccer team. Since you’re probably not going to cut back on the booze, you can at least save a few bucks by buying in bulk. It’s worth it to drive the extra 30 minutes to an hour to the nearest discount liquor store or beer warehouse for a case of wine, a couple cases of beer, and good bottles of liquor. For some of you that means driving to a different state but the savings could be substantial and more than pay for the extra gas and time.

November 30th: Wrap it Up

Like we said, you’re not trying to find the perfect gift. Just a good one. If you haven’t found what you consider good then just buy one that’s acceptable.

If it’s for a wife/girlfriend then it’s got to be jewelry. It’s got to be earrings, a bracelet or a necklace. Go to a decent jewelry store or department store (Costco has a fine selection) with your price range in mind and pick something that’s not too large and gaudy.

Friends/relatives get books that are somewhat related to a subject they have an interest in. Clients/business associates get booze unless you know they have religious qualms about it or are recovering alkys. Then it’s a fancy selection of candy they can put in a dish if they have a party.

December 1st: You’re Done

Now you can enjoy the whole month of December without that nagging task hanging over your head. You can even start paying off any charges you made. So you don’t have to go through your annual January tradition of opening your credit card statements and puking. Go out and buy some white lights. Hang them around your doors and window. They’re cheap. And they look good.

The Quick Holiday Shopping Guide for Guys Provided by AskMen.