My Christmas Gift to You

Listen up, last minute and chronically disorganized shoppers – this one is for you.  There are five days until Christmas and you’ve basically missed the boat for online shopping, unless you’re willing to pay outrageous shipping fees.  These three steps to efficient holiday shopping will reduce your stress and keep you on budget. 
Step One – List It
Before walking out the door, you need to make a list and check it twice.  Yes, you are Santa.  On a sheet of paper, or in an Excel spreadsheet (for you computer savvy folks), make eight columns – “Gift Recipient,” “Gift,” “Store,” “Alternate Gift,” “Store,” “Estimate,” “Actual Cost,” “Complete.” 

Under the “Gift Recipient” column, list everyone you need to buy a gift for – and I mean everyone.  List them all here and don’t forget teachers, trainers, great aunts, etc.  In the “Gift” column, write the gift idea.  In the “Store” column, write where you’ll find the gift.  Don’t forget alternate gift ideas in case you can’t find your first choice.  List those ideas and locations under “Alternate Gifts” and the other “Store” column. 

Next, estimate the cost and write it in the “Estimate” column.  This is an easy way to make sure your overall Christmas list fits in your budget. 
Fill in the final two columns after the purchases are made.  Under “Actual Cost,” write in what you spent on the gift.  And finally, put a check in the “Complete” column once the gift has been purchased.  This is like crossing it off your list – no better feeling than that!
Step Two – Map It
Now that you’ve got a shopping list that Santa would envy, it’s time to hop on the computer and map out the stores you need to hit.  Make note of each store’s location and cross streets on your gift list in the “Store” column.  This will save you time when you’re in the trenches.  Group the stores based on their locations and make a plan to hit those stores in the same day.  I like to use different colored highlighters to quickly group my Upper West Side, Midtown, and Downtown shops. 
With you’re shopping list at hand, make a quick a transportation plan to get you most efficiently from one location to the next.  You can write the plan on the back of your shopping list.  You won’t waste money on cabs if you know where you’re going and can get there by subway or foot.
Step Three – Schedule It
Next, you need to block out time on your calendar for shopping.  If you don’t commit to the time, you’re likely to put it off.  And who wants to be in Bloomingdale’s on Christmas Eve anyway? 
Be realistic about how many stores you can hit in one day.  There is nothing worse than a long, exhausting shopping trip; so one option is to hit a neighborhood, like Midtown, and all the stores in that area over a couple of hours on one day.  And remember many stores have early and extended hours, so do some quick research and factor that into your shopping schedule.
And Finally…
Despite the below freezing wind chill, Christmas in New York is the best time of the year, so enjoy the store windows, the tree in Rockefeller Center, and give a smile to your salesperson and fellow shoppers.  You might just get one back. 
Now grab your shopping list and get to it!  Good luck!