By Amanda Fontaine, for GalTime.com
Don’t deny it: Christmas is coming. And so is Hanukkah. And secret classroom elves. And all the other holiday bustle and chaos. When decorations appear in shopping malls and department stores, we brush it off for a month or two, but that time has passed.I hate to say it, but it’s finally time to start scoping out toys and making a list. If you have kids to buy for - either children of your own, or nieces, nephews, friends' children, or godchildren - how do you survive the shopping season without stress or great expense?
Here are six suggestions for keeping your sanity, and your financial solvency this season:
When Possible, Shop Online
Retailers are getting increasingly savvy in promoting things online, with special one-day 'online only' sales and free shipping to keep shoppers buying from home. Anyone who is a regular user of Amazon knows that with a yearly subscription to Amazon Prime, all shipping is free, and most items can be delivered in three days or less. The Internet also allows you to compare prices and share 'wish lists' through Amazon or other sites – and of course, you won’t have to worry about finding childcare if you’re shopping from the sofa.
Keep Track of Your Wish Lists with Smartphone Apps
Apps for iPhone and Android allow users to share wish lists with partners and parents, compare prices and even scan bar codes to bring up product reviews and other information. While there are several great apps for this, a popular one for holiday shoppers is Google Shopper, which features the aforementioned benefits, including bar code and image recognition of toys, and voice-based searches. Evernote is also a great way to share live-updating shopping lists with others, so you can both tick off and add items as you go along.
Make a Budget and Stick to It
It is easy to get over-excited and go off-budget during the holiday season, which can get the New Year off to a rocky start when credit card bills arrive. Making a budget and sticking to it, no matter what, is the best way to take some of the emotion out of our toy spending – write the budget on your debit card in pencil so you are reminded every time you open your wallet. It might seem a bit 'bah humbug' at the time, but you'll thank yourself in January. And your spouse or partner might thank you, too.
Expensive Does Not Equal Best and the Hottest Toys Are Not Always Awesome
Many children, especially very young children, are nearly as happy with the box the toy came in as the toy itself. Don't assume that you, or your child, will like or not like the toy based on how expensive it was. While children are targets for marketers and prone to jealousy, they can also be surprisingly unfussy, loving a less-expensive toy over a wallet-busting one. Buy for the particular child, not just the 'hot toy' or latest seasonal fad.