I have just finished buying holiday presents for 27 of my 29 grandkids (OK, two toddlers still need to be shopped for) and I accomplished this daunting task without taking out a second mortgage, and more importantly, buying gifts that are meaningful and educational. Here are some "easy" "weird" "tips" and "tricks" (using Google scam words, here!) to make your holiday shopping less burdensome.
1. Find out what your kids (and grandkids) want. Don't ask them directly! Hint around. Since Jewish families do not believe in Santa, this means Bubbie & Zaidy buy all the presents and they don't have a ton of money. So even though you are collecting a "wish list" make it clear that wishes don't grow on trees.
2. Shop early, and shop online! Forget "Black Friday." While some people love the crush and the smell of battle and sweet doorbusting bargains, I am not one of those mall warriors! All of your favorite stores have websites and sell stuff online, and the same bargains they have on the floor "Black Friday" are available, I'm not going to say "Cyber Monday" because I hate the word "Cyber" and these bargains are usually available in October. In fact sometimes prices can go up after the "holiday season" kicks in, so be alert!
3. Avoid buying toys that are based on licensed characters from movies and TV. If there is a trade name involved, this will increase the price! Your grandbabies may have their greedy little hearts set on some action figures of "Cars 2" or "Thor" or "Scooby Doo" but, stay away! In fact stay out of Walmart altogether. Their toy section contains only TV & movie-based crap, made in China, and their prices are higher than anywhere else, except for "Toys R Us." Stay out of "Toys R Us" too. If you want quality, low-priced toys, shop at Marshall's. They do not sell stuff online, but visit a store in your area.
4. Books are great gifts for kids, especially classics that you enjoyed yourself when you were a kid. Doverpublications.com has a fantastic selection of classics for all ages, very reasonably priced. WARNING: their "paper dolls" collection is not for children, but adults might enjoy them. They have "paper dolls" for both gays and straights.
5. Get toys that encourage creativity and scientific inquiry. Arts and crafts kits, origami, stained glass (or stained plastic), paint-by-number, plaster art, sand art, watercolors, oil pastels, even coloring books and crayons. If your child is not artistic, look for science toys: optics, weather balloons, model dinosaurs, a cheap microscope (if your future surgeon enjoys it, you can always get a more professional model later), rock collecting, insect collecting, the possibilities are endless!
6. Teenagers and grown-up children are tough to shop for, since they tend to crave high-end toys like iPhones, iPads, and Mustangs. Ask yourself: how much is all your guilt worth? Reciprocity should be a factor here. Bubbie likes bling. You want a Kindle? All you kids can chip in and get Bubbie a Pandora bracelet, not that cheesy personalized calendar you gave last year, with everyone's birthdays in it.
7. Religious-based toys can be educational and fun. A wooden Noah's Ark is more appropriate to the season than a Tattooed Barbie doll. Remember there is a reason we celebrate these holidays other than to just get stuff.
8. Don't stress out! Gift giving should be an enjoyable experience, both for the giver and the receiver. Don't knock yourself out searching high and low for a gift for that person who is marginal to your life, or your cheap uncle or your snotty, impossible-to-please cousin. Get those people cheesy personalized calendars with your birthday and anniversary prominently highlighted. If they complain, so what! Give them NOTHING!
9. Get yourself a little something.
10. Give gifts of kindness. Give loaves of homemade bread or tins of homemade cookies. Bake a pie! Invite a lonely person for a festive meal. Sort, wash, mend and donate a load of outgrown clothing to a shelter. Volunteer at a pet rescue. Shovel snow for an elderly or disabled neighbor. The gifts that "keep on giving."
Enjoy the holidays!
Shop at the Zionist Mall!