Snow is a’ fallin’, sales are a’ happenin’, and the eggnog is starting to make its way into your bellies. Yes, Christmas is here again. And yes, that means you’re going to have to buy somebody a gift at some point. And while that doesn’t mean you have to wrap said gift, it does mean that you PROBABLY should. So we’re going to give you everything you need to know about buying, and wrapping your gifts.
Here are some of our shopping tips:
Get last-minute gift help. Last-minute shoppers have two things going for them — deep discounts from retailers hoping to clear out their inventory and new ways to make gifting easy and even automatic. Feeling stumped about what to buy for the people left on your list? ShopSmart suggests trying a gift-finder tool for inspiration, such as the one at Gifts.com (gifts.com/finder).
Avoid shipping fees. More stores are giving shoppers the option of ordering items online and picking their purchase up at a local store — eliminating shipping charges. Best Buy, Finish Line and Target are among the retailers offering this perk.
Cash in coins for gift cards. Coinstar kiosks won’t charge a fee when users opt for a gift card instead of cash at a bunch of participating retailers. New merchants include Applebee’s, GameStop, Home Depot and Southwest Airlines.
Once you find that perfect, your next step will be wrapping.
Load up on paper. Plain metallic and solid-colored papers are sold for a reasonable price at craft stores — about 20 cents to $1 a foot, which can save at least $1 a foot over high-end papers.
Skip ribbons and bows. Shoppers can buy a giant roll of red and white baker’s twine for as little as $5. Or check out the sale bins at craft stores for yarn, rickrack, ball fringe and other inexpensive ribbon alternatives.
Save on gift toppers. Look for inexpensive knickknacks to tie on gifts at the dollar store, such as small, shiny ornaments, toy Santas and candy canes.
And, while you may be in the Christmas spirit, just remember this is a peak season for thievery and car break-ins. Here are some tips to keep you safe while your trying to cram some late-night shopping.
Be choosy where you park. Sure, that isn’t always easy. But it could be worth driving around a little to find a spot in a populated area instead of settling on one in a dark, remote location, especially if you are alone.
Lock and stow. Many parking lot thefts occur because drivers neglect to perform the simplest task: locking the car and closing the windows. Hide valuables such as GPS devices, cell phones, laptops and iPods. If your GPS is mounted to your windshield, pull it off and try to clean off the suction marks so that thieves don’t break into the car looking for it.
Stay focused. “People walking through the parking lot don’t pay as much attention as they used to,” says Capt. Robert Guidetti of the Paramus, N.J., police department. Instead they are checking email or making calls. Look to your front, side and rear when walking to and from a store.
Assume you’re watched. Criminals watch for shoppers who put purchases in their car or trunk, then walk back into the store. Once you’re gone, it can take only moments to break in and grab items. If you need to stow packages while shopping, repark your car in a different location, away from anyone who could have been observing, says Detective Bob Welsome of the New York City Police Department. Other options are to find out whether the mall has storage lockers available or ask security to hold your packages until you’re ready to leave.
Hope that helped! Have a wonderful winter and Happy Holidays!