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Thursday, November 07, 2013

Attempting the Avoidance of Holiday Stress

It took me a while to come up with a suitable topic to write about for this week's edition of the Thursday Diary. But after setting up some holiday displays in my area, I came up with a topic fairly quickly.

November 7, 2013

How many of you have actually started your Christmas shopping yet?  Be honest.  I'll completely let all of you know that I am totally behind the eight ball this year.  

I know what you must all be thinking though.  This is only the seventh of November.  There is still a little over a month and a half left to go yet before the big man in red slides down the chimney for another year.  But I guess I should explain the reasoning behind why I am so behind this year when it comes to shopping for Christmas.

Firstly, this year, I'm really struggling with trying to come up with ideas for holiday shopping this year, and part of the reason is because we're trying something new this year.  While there is no limit on how many gifts that we are going to buy each other, the stipulation is that all of our presents this year have to cost five dollars or less.  Here lies the challenge.  There's not a whole lot of options that I can do on a shoestring budget per gift when you run the risk of getting repetitive.  

But despite that challenge, I think that it will be a fantastic Christmas anyway.  For one, Christmas is not all about materialism, and making sure that you get the most expensive presents that are available - well, unless your holiday shopping experiences include shopping for gifts from the Neiman Marcus catalogue.  (I mean, seriously, have you checked out some of the stuff in that catalogue?  Gives new meaning to the phrase "in excess"!)

For another, I actually welcome the challenge to purchase gifts on a budget.  After all, when I was a kid, my budget was eerily similar to the proposed one that my family plans on implementing.  I only had five bucks to spend on a person, and I really had to be creative.  Fortunately, at that time, our shopping mall was an oasis for the shopper on a tight budget, and I managed to get some really nice presents for everyone.

Mind you, a five dollar budget was a lot of money twenty years ago.  And, back in 1993, I only had six people to buy gifts for.  In 2013, my giving list has doubled, but five dollars can only get you so much.  Luckily, I have a plan in motion.

There's a craft fair coming to the mall, and I'm sure I can find some really nice things there on a shoestring budget.  For what it's worth, our dollar stores in 2013 are a lot more elaborate than they were back in 1993, and I can definitely buy some quality gifts on a budget.  And, of course at my workplace we have the wonderful five dollar DVD bin - which I'm not afraid to admit has a great selection of films.

The point is that will shopping on a budget be hard?  Yes.  But do I appreciate the idea of thinking outside of the box and being really creative with gift options when you only have a limited supply of funds?  Absolutely.  If anything, I think my holiday shopping for this year will be absolutely stress-free.

And really, isn't that the best Christmas gift that you can give yourself?  The gift of a stress-free holiday?

I certainly wasn't always like this.  As I mentioned earlier, I'm kind of behind the eight ball this year for holiday shopping.  By mid-November, I have almost all of it completed.  But before I started working retail, I was always the guy who would wait until December 22 or December 23 to even start my shopping.  But after having nearly a decade of sales floor experience, I have quickly learned my lesson, and now strive to have my holiday shopping finished by November 30 at the very latest.

This year, I might be a week behind schedule, but that's not too bad because I'm also the kind of person who thinks about what gifts to give people all year round.  This year is going to be a little more interesting, but in a good way.

Having first hand experience over what it is like to work in a department store during the month of December, I used to see people get incredibly stressed out all the time...especially when they couldn't find a particular item that was featured in the ad because it was sold out.  Back in the days in which I was working in the grocery side of the store, I had people get angry because we ran out of cream cheese, or Pillsbury Crescent Rolls, or anything else that was a key ingredient in holiday feasts, with people not realizing that we don't have a whole lot of control in how much stock we receive on the delivery trucks per order.  

I still get a kick over the one lady who blasted me and told me that I "DESTROYED her Christmas" because we ran out of egg nog.

Which would be understandable if the incident occurred on Christmas Eve.  In reality, that incident happened just after the first of December, and we ended up getting more egg nog the very next day anyway.  No need to blow a gasket over it.

But you know, with the holidays, it comes with the territory.  

I imagine that when the PlayStation 4 is released on November 15, we are going to have a mob of people barging through the doors, all eager to get their hands on one of the coveted gaming systems.  I know that I certainly have had a number of customers asking me all sorts of questions about whether they can pre-order it, whether our store will be opening up early that day to sell them right at 12:01, how much they are going to cost, if they can buy more than one (seriously, unless you have a family of fourteen, why would you need more than one?).  And, perhaps the most important question - how many are we going to have in stock, and will they be guaranteed one.

Well, I'd say if you camped outside the store and was first in line, you'd likely be able to walk out of there with one.  But, why would anyone want to?

Here's a confession for you.  In most cases, I will NEVER buy the first edition of a video game console.  The lone exception was my Nintendo 3DS, which I purchased a couple of weeks after it was released - and the sole motivator behind that purchase was so I could play a video game that was only available on the 3DS.  

But in general, I will wait at least a year before I purchase a brand new item.  Why?  Because do you have any idea just how unpredictable some of the first edition electronic items are?  I don't want to risk waiting in line for the top of the line gadget only to find that it has a flaw or bug in it which leads to the product being unusable at the end of the ordeal.  And, even so, I don't really need anything that badly that I would want to stand outside in the cold weather for hours on end.  It's just added stress that nobody needs.

But then again, I suppose that if I had small children who really had their hearts set on unwrapping the one thing that they really wanted to get for Christmas, then I might feel a little bit differently.  And, maybe I would be one of those people who dig out the long underwear and parka to camp outside of a store in order to make their dreams come true.  But, it wouldn't be out of commercialism.  It would be out of love.

And, as I close out this Thursday Diary entry, I think about the idea that my family has come up with for exchanging presents, and I'm thinking that it's going to be a great Christmas tradition.

After all, Christmas isn't about the items you give.  Instead, it's about the people you share it with.  And isn't that more valuable than a PlayStation 4?

You know...that gives me an idea for next week's blog entry.  But I'm going to keep it under wraps for the time being.  You'll see it next week.

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