Jennifer Farrell’s Holiday Shopping Survival Guide

Jennifer Farrell’s Holiday Shopping Survival Guide

Design expert Jennifer Farrell dishes on how to save time and money this holiday.

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Every December that hectic (and expensive) shopping crunch is enough to bring out the Grinch in us all. Well, not this year. This year's going to be different!

Of course, you tell yourself that every year, but this year it's true. Follow a few smart tips that'll help you and your honey survive the holiday shopping experience — and even have a little fun along the way.

Set a Budget
You've heard this a million times and you know it's a good idea. So why don't you ever do it?  Your friends and family aren't expecting you to buy them a sports car (although, if you're giving them out this year, please send me one). Limit the amount you spend and you'll be surprised how liberating it is to see your checking account hasn’t been emptied out from buying that vibrating chair for Uncle Ed. 

Here's a good rule for setting your budget: plan on half a week's earnings for all your gift giving.

For example, if your income is $1000 per week, then your spending limit is $500. Set aside 25 percent for your betrothed, and save the other 75 percent for everyone else on your list.

Don’t melt your plastic — freeze it! Pay for everything with cash. By the time the December credit card binge gets paid off, most people end up paying double the cost of the goods they've purchased. Tuck your cards away for the month and only use greenbacks. The only excuse to use credit is when making online purchases, but don't forget to deduct the cost—including tax and shipping—from your budget.


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Save Time by Shopping Online
The big draw to the Internet is the convenience of endless shopping possibilities it offers. The bad thing about the Internet is the endless shopping possibilities.

If you're sending gifts to loved ones, hit sites that offer gift wrapping. Though they'll charge you for the wrap job, you're saving the cost by not spending money on gas, wrapping paper, cards and bows.  Websites like these often have gift-giving suggestions, so take them up on their offer and borrow their ideas. 

Get Creative
Your spouse can be the toughest person on your shopping list. But the old saying is true — it's the thought that counts. This year, skip the diamonds and flat screens and get more creative.

If your sweetheart likes funky jewelry, make her a necklace. You'll find a whole slew of cool beads and charms at your local craft store, so string them together, attach a clasp and you'll win major points for making her such a unique gift instead of buying one. 

Does your guy like sports? Build him a Super Sports Party Pack. Fill a cheap disposable ice chest with a sports mag, his favorite drinks and a baseball cap from his favorite team. Print a fake gift certificate that entitles him to a catered guys-only, game-day party, at which you will make him and his buddies his favorite weekend junk food, serve the beer, wash the dishes and not interrupt the game to ask him to take out the trash. Tie the whole thing up with clear wrap and a bow like a giant gift basket, and you'll have the greatest guy's gift ever.

For more of Jennifer's advice on the holidays, visit her blog.

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