As much as I enjoy the festive -Ber months and the holiday sales, I also hate large crowds in malls in the weeks leading up to Christmas. This year marks the third holiday season when I’m financially capable of buying gifts for everyone I love.
And in the last two years, I’ve sort of learned from my mistakes in Christmas shopping and developed a strategy that help me avoid the crowds while saving money and still finding gifts that I know my friends and family will appreciate.
Online shopping has always been an option for me, but I know some people may still feel unsure about buying products they’ve never seen in person – and that’s perfectly understandable. So I’m going to focus on tips for shopping in malls. Online shopping is convenient, but there’s just something about shopping the traditional way and spotting the perfect gift that’s just so satisfying.
Make a List (and Check It Twice)
I once read somewhere that going grocery shopping without a list makes you more likely to make impulse purchases because you’re wandering around the supermarket without a game plan. I find that gift shopping without a list is a lot like that.
When I was a kid and my parents would pay for all the gifts I gave to my friends, my mom would limit the number of people I could buy gifts for and asked me to write down their names. This allowed me to carefully think about who I wanted to give gifts to. I don’t limit myself to a certain number of people anymore, but I find that making a list is still helpful because it helps me gauge how much I can spend per person and estimate how much I’ll be spending on gifts that year.
As of now, I’ve already made a list on my phone of the people I’ll be giving gifts to: my immediate family members, my boyfriend, his family, and about 10 of my closest friends – that’s about 20 people to buy gifts for.
So when I’m in the mall, I force myself to limit my shopping to only what those 20 people would like, so I wouldn’t be wandering from store to store and be tempted to buy things that those 20 people wouldn’t really appreciate.
Consider the Cheaper Stores
Last year, one of our writers, Ashley, went on a Christmas shopping spree in the “So Stores” (Miniso, Mumuso, and Daiso) for Christmas gifts under P500. I followed her advice, and managed to find some pretty good Christmas gifts for my friends the previous year, so I wouldn’t mind going back this year to find more gifts for my friends.
Depending on the store you visit, you can find good quality gifts for as low as P88, so if you’re on a budget but don’t like going to Divisoria or Baclaran, these stores are a convenient alternative.
Another option for affordable gifts (especially for your friends that are into cosmetics and skin care) is Watsons. A few months back, Ashley and I (and a few other friends) created Watsons care packages for each other with just a hundred pesos each. They were pretty good care packages, so imagine what you can do with a bigger budget for your friends. Watsons isn’t Sephora, where you’ll find high-end brands like MAC and Estee Lauder, but you can find nice mid-range brands like Maybelline and Happy Skin there.
Shop from November to Early December
I made the mistake of buying some of my Christmas gifts on December 24 last year, when me and my sister were at Southmall to pick up a food order for our family’s Christmas Eve dinner. I figured that I could do some shopping while we were there instead of going there by myself on an earlier date.
I was wrong.
In Miniso, the line to the cashiers was so long that it reached the farthest corner of the store. Downstairs, a lot of stores had few items on display and lots of people (in true Titos and Titas of Manila fashion) walked out with multiple branded giftbags hanging on each arm. And inside the The SM Store, all the salespeople were very busy, and it took a long while before I found someone to assist me with a product I wanted to buy.
If you really hate the crowds and rush to buy your gifts before it’s all gone, I strongly recommend shopping as early as November. You might be waiting for a Christmas bazaar to pop up in the weeks to December, but if you want to browse stores and start canvassing for gift ideas, it’s always best to do it early.
Go One-Stop Shopping
Instead of going to multiple malls and stores, try visiting places that may have everything for everyone or most of the people on your list.
For example, if you can find gifts for everyone in a department store, you only need to go shopping, line up at the cashier, and pay for your gifts one time. Plus points if the department store has a school supplies section where you can find all the giftwrapping supplies or giftbags you need, so you don’t have to buy it separately.
Pay in Cash
Once you set a list and put an estimate on how much you want to spend for Christmas, you may be tempted to go over your budget if you have a credit card or debit card with more money. What I usually do is withdraw the money I intend on spending and then, for my entire Christmas shopping, never use my debit card to pay.
Paying in cash forces me to be aware of how much I’m spending. If I spend a bit more for one person than I originally planned, I have to spend less for someone else, so I have to plan accordingly. It’s tempting to have your cards swipe because you don’t have to think about exactly how much money you have left.
Some of us use our Christmas gifts to show our loved ones how much we care about them. But it’s never a smart idea to splurge while forgetting about your finances and whether you can afford to go all out on their gift. These tips can help you avoid the mall crowds that come with the holiday season while also helping you stay on a budget and helping you find gifts your loved ones can still appreciate.