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Become the best gift giver ever

By Jennifer Durrant daily Herald - | Nov 21, 2014

Every year, as November starts to roll around, my brain quickly transitions into gift mode. I simply love giving gifts! Maybe it has something to do with my passion for shopping, or maybe the delight I witness when a gift is received. Either way, it goes without saying that the holidays are my favorite time of year.

I know there are quite a few Christmas Scrooges out there – annoyed with the shopping crowds, exhausted by the constant holiday-themed commercials, dismayed by the over-inflated prices, and frustrated by the monetary stress – but I believe there a few ways to help make Christmas shopping that much more enjoyable. I’ve compiled a list of tips for finding the perfect, well-thought-out gifts for your loved ones this year.

Shop local

Shopping local is probably the most important of all these Christmas tips, and sadly the most overlooked. Chic boutiques, that quaint little shop around the corner, the handcrafted vendor at your favorite holiday market, the small bookseller downtown, even your artistic neighbor. All of these businesses depend on me and you to spend some of our holiday budget in their story. They have been feverishly stocking up for the holidays, ready to provide their customers with the finest products, all laced with personalized customer service, and maybe even gift wrapping!

One of the most recent gifts I picked up was certainly something I could have found at a large box store or even online, but I had such a delightful time walking through the custom bookstore/chocolate shop that I had to purchase an adorable book along with my own little chocolate treat.

Small Business Saturday is set for Nov. 29, and with many Utah Valley town participating in this shopping campaign, there may be extra-special discounts, door prizes, even treats at your favorite downtown shops.

Other opportunities for supporting local merchants are events set for the first weekend in December. Beehive Bazaar, featuring locally handcrafted products – everything from mermaid dolls to Christmas ornaments to art and much more is set to run Thursday-Saturday, Dec. 4-6, and again Dec. 11-13 at The Shops at Riverwoods. Provo’s Winterfest Lights On event, set for Friday, Dec. 5, on Provo’s Center Street will also feature local and regional merchants selling everything from jewelry to art to other handcrafted gifts.

Shop odd hours

If you do have to make a trip to one of the big box stores, avoid the crowds and head out deal hunting after you’ve tucked your little ones into bed or a couple hours before they wake up.

While the aisles might be filled with pallets of product waiting to be restocked, and you might have to dodge a vacuum or two, your stress level with be greatly reduced when you don’t have to fight the crowds. Less shopping stress equals better, smarter purchases, right?

Shop online

I’ve been so impressed with the number of online businesses that are located here in Utah. There are dozens and dozens of crafters, jewelry makers, home décor vendors and even children’s clothing designers based right here in Utah. Want to keep your Christmas bucks in Utah? Check out Etsy.com and do a search for Utah vendors.

I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m addicted to discount product websites – sites like GroopDealz, Simple Addiction, Zulily and more. These sites offer fresh, quality, online deals at heavily discounted prices. And, as I’ve purchased quite a few things, especially from GroopDealz, I’ve noticed the bulk of the vendors are local to Utah. Looking for some customized jewelry, adorable gifts for your toddler, the latest sweater trend? Sign up for these sites and start shopping.

Stick to your list

I have a very bad habit of finding a particularly adorable item for a friend or family member, and realizing it’s on sale at a great price, I decide that I need that same sweater or book, too. This weakness of mine invariably leads to overspending every year.

Sticking to your shopping list is the best way to avoid holiday overspending. While you may really want to add on that additional video game to go with the Xbox One you’re buying, it really isn’t necessary and could save you some cash.

Hands-free shopping

This is a trick I’ve learned through many years of good, fun shopping. It’s much easier to load up on deals when you’re not trying to also balance a bulky, heavy purse on your shoulder or a pocketbook in your hand. I love shopping hands free. Sometimes that means I just carry my debit card safely in a zippered pocket or I’ll dust off my cross-body purse and load it up with all my shopping necessities.

Shopping apps

Technology has allowed for many cost-saving tools in the form of smartphone apps. Take for instance, Ebates, WalMart Savings Catcher, RetailMeNot and even the Black Friday app by BuyVia. Popular stores like Hobby Lobby and Michaels, known for their heavy coupon discounts, also offer apps which put those coupons just a click away.

Enjoy the experience

Whether you are going shopping with a large group or just planning on enjoying some solo shopping, be sure to take some time and enjoy the whole experience.

Checkout lines horribly long? Download a new game app to your phone so you can easily pass the time. Need a quick pick-me-up to help you power through your lengthy list? Stop at the nearest Starbucks or other favorite drink spot for a hot chocolate, chai tea, or my seasonal favorite, the Caramel Apple Spice.

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