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Blog: Minimizing Financial Clutter
Organized Christmas Shopping

My husband and I literally just returned home from a Christmas shopping trip to our local mall, so this topic is definitely front and center for me today! Until this evening, however, I really had not taken the time to give much thought to gift ideas for my family members and friends.  The thought of trudging through the crowds at the mall with no plan in place was not something to which I looked forward. 
So before we braved the masses, we sat down over dinner and created our two annual "Christmas: The Project" lists:  "Things to Do" and "Gifts to Give".  The first list, "Things to Do", consisted of all tasks we need to accomplish before Christmas, such as mailing Christmas cards and decorating the house.  That was the easy list; although it's a long list, but the tasks are relatively straightforward.  Then there was the "Gifts to Give" list – not quite as easy as the other list… 
Way-back-when, in a journalism class, I learned that a good news story answers 6 questions in the first paragraph:  Who?  What?  When?  Where?  Why? and How?  A good Christmas shopping list answers those same 6 questions – and can save you a lot of time and money.  So during our dinner this evening, we asked ourselves those questions and made our 2007 "Gifts to Give" list:
Who are the most important people in our lives? 
What are those people doing these days?  What are their interests?  Their needs?  What would convey to those people how special they are to us?
When will we see the recipients of our gifts?  If my in-laws come to visit the week after next, I'll need to have their gifts on-hand before Christmas day.  If the annual gift exchange won't happen until after Christmas this year, then I can wait until the after-Christmas sales to select a gift.  When will I schedule appointments with myself to go Christmas shopping?  When will I schedule time to bake cookies or do crafts for gift-giving?  When will I mail any gifts that need to be mailed?  (I actually block out time on my calendar for those tasks.)
Which stores (or other places) do I need to visit to obtain my gifts?  Can I save time by only visiting a particular store once and making all of my purchases from that store at the same time?  Can I plot out a driving route so I don't waste time backtracking between stops?
Last year, my college roommate and I called a truce to our Christmas gift-giving.  After all, what do you get for someone with whom you've been exchanging gifts for 35 years?  Why does either of us need more stuff?  What we really needed, we decided, was to spend more time together.  So now we take turns planning simple events to attend together; those events are our Christmas gifts to each other.  My best friend since childhood and I decided this year that we would only give each other things we already owned.  Again, why buy more stuff when each of us already has plenty?  How often do we continue to give gifts simply because we have always done so?  Sometimes we need to ask Why?
How much is enough?  How many presents does a child need?  How much do we want to spend?  How much do we have available to spend without going into debt?  How will we pay the bills in January if we don't pay with cash in December?  Decide on these matters before setting foot in the mall or going shopping online.  Keep track of your spending as you proceed through your holiday shopping trips.

posted on: 12/9/2007 11:30:00 AM by Katherine Trezise
category: Finances

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Minimizing Financial Clutter

by Katherine Trezise

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About Katherine:

Katherine Trezise is president of Absolutely Organized, based in Baltimore, MD. She is president-elect of the National Study Group on Chronic Disorganization. Katherine holds a masters degree in business administration, is a Certified Professional Organizer® and a Certified Professional Organizer in Chronic Disorganization®. Absolutely Organized specializes in helping people organize their homes, paperwork and financial records to make room in their lives for the things, people and activities that are most important to them.

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