Holiday Shopping, Time Management and Organization
by C.S. Clarke, Ph.D.
Every year in the holiday season, I write a short article or blog about time management, organization and frugality as applied to gift shopping and card sending. Here are my tips for this year.
1. Sending holiday greetings, especially if you have a large mailing list, seems to be the most dreaded -- and delayed -- chore of the season. I have a single suggestion that turns the job into about a 10 to 20 minute action, at least after the first time. Go to http://cardstore.com. If you have your mailing list digitized, you can simply open an account and transfer the list to it. Otherwise, you will have to manually enter the list. That is the only lengthy part of the process and it is shorter a process than addressing the envelopes themselves. Then select a card. You can write your own greeting, if you wish to personalize the card. You can even make your own card from scratch with your own artwork or photo. And every single card can contain a different personal message if you wish to add one (in addition to the greeting.) Then opt to have the envelopes stamped and mailed for you and you are done. There's no extra charge for stamping and mailing, just the actual cost of the postage.
2. For a great online selection of gifts at good prices, it's hard to beat Amazon.com. And if you are a "Prime" member, there's no charge for delivery within two days. They'll gift wrap and tag your purchase and send it directly to your long-distance friends and family. Click, click. Fast and easy. (There is an extra charge for gift wrapping.)
3. The Entertainment Book® costs about $20, and if you don't get it from kids in your neighborhood doing fundraising, you can get it on line at http://entertainment.com. It's filled with coupons not only for local businesses, but also for online purchases. Some of those purchases are outstanding bargains. For example, I saw a coupon for a gift from Omaha Steaks. The cost was $49. Without the coupon, it would have been $164. Another example is that you can get gift cards at a discount such as $15 for a $25 gift card to a local restaurant.
4. Thinking about gift cards... You can save lots of time and energy by just presenting gift cards for your recipients' favorite stores and entertainment venues. This is especially great for last minute and "oops-I-forgot-someone" gifts. Very last minute gift cards for a variety of venues can be found in many supermarkets. Also, GiftCertificates.com has a deal called a "SuperCertificate" that can be exchanged for any of their gift cards from hundreds of stores, restaurants and entertainment providers. You can print out the certificate from your computer, put it in a card and hand it over, all in a matter of minutes. (Or you can send it by email.) Talk about last minute madness!
That's it for this year. I'm not going to tell you all my secrets at once. I'll just mention that the above are the methods I used this year, and my total shopping took 2 hours and my card sending took 20 minutes. (I designed my own card and had to upload the jpg and I had to change some addresses.) Of course, I had a general list made up before I started shopping. Do I need to tell you that the basic secret of organized, time-managed anything starts with a list?