I can’t believe Black Friday is just around the corner.  Somehow, it’s that time of year again and we’re all left scratching our heads wondering how something as big as the holiday season snuck up on us.  Looking through the small stash of gifts I’ve accumuluated for the kids thus far, I can see I have a lot to do before now and December 25th.  In fact, I’m so freaked out about getting my shopping done that I’m even going to be part of the throngs of midnight shoppers at my local outlet mall on Thanksgiving night.  Eat some turkey, eat some pie, drink some vino – then time to buy! 

Despite the craziness, I do, actually enjoy this time of year.  I LOVE to gift.  The only problem is that my little wallet vampires, who have their year-round fun draining me of my Ben Franklins, demand that I scale back.  Buying new shoes for them every 8 weeks has really limited by disposable income.  My efforts to scale back mean that a lot of the people on the periphery of my life who normally would’ve received a small gift from me, are getting a lovely card and, maybe, some cookies this year, if I’m feeling generous.

Of course, it’s not just my pocketbook that’s feeling empty. My interest level in shopping is at about zero.  While I long for the days when I found solace in some retail therapy, I’ve found that I can’t live with all the guilt.  The scary news reports of tough economic times really do have me too frightened to spend.  And from talking to others, I know I’m not alone.  My prediction: We’re going to see a lot more last minute shoppers this year, hanging on for bottom of the barrel, last-minute pricing. 

So if you’re like me, you’re probably keen on getting this bad boy over with quickly – either very, very early before you run out of cash and will power or very, very late in the hopes of saving some dough.  Regardless of which kind of shopper you plan to be this year, here are some cool holiday shopping tips I’ve stumbled upon that may prove helpful.

This is kinda cool – Amazon.com has a promotion going on called Amazon Customers Vote.  Beginning this Thursday, 11/27 through midnight on December 4th we, the customer, can vote for which items we want to see discounted!  Here’s the bonus: even if the item you voted for isn’t the winner, it still gets discounted (although the discount for the winning item is described as “ridiculous”).  Come on – who doesn’t love getting deep holiday discounts as you simultaneously get deep into a bowl of Ben & Jerry’s in your jammies?  Who ever invented online shopping is a genius!

This is cool: Talking to another mommy at work a few days ago, she let me in on her holiday shopping secret.  She finishes up her shopping in mid-September by buying gifts for her kids all year long.  But here’s the trick: whenever she gets a party invite for her kids from a school friend, she buys a gift for the birthday kid and the same toy for her own kids.  She figures that kids always want to play with each others toys anyway, and it’s a guaranteed hit since her kid (unknowingly) picked it out.  I love how sneaky she is…

This is way cool:   If you’re like me, buying for the kids is the easy part.  But getting the right gift for your husband – now that’s tricky and potentially expensive.  No worries!  Check out Esquire Magazine’s Recession Gift Guide: 24 Great Presents for Under $20.  Granted, most of these gifts are strictly for men or are gifts for men disguised as gifts for women, but the ideas are 90% great and that’s better than most magazine gift guides can muster.

This is the coolest:  Esquire is proving to be every bit as helpful to women as it is to men.  They’ve also assembled a fantastic list of The 22 Worst Gifts on Earth. Period.  Just think – you don’t have to have the painful conversation with your husband about what a crappy gift giver he is.  Instead you can just send him a link to this list with an email that says, ”Gosh, honey.  Can you believe people give these kinds of horrible things to each other?  I’m so glad you would never think of giving me any of these!” That should drive home the point without painting you as the bad guy.   Of course, men often don’t get subtlety, so you may have to resort to standing naked next to his computer monitor as you point at each item and say, “If you even think about buying this for me, I’m never having sex with you again.”  That’ll do the trick.

I have a confession to make.  Even knowing that I wouldn’t want anything on the Worst Gifts list, I’m still tempted to spring for a box of the Wacky Rubber Chicken condoms, just for the WTF? reaction.  The only thing stopping me is the knowledge that laughing and pointing at Dick’s wacky rubber chicken isn’t going to be a gift that keeps on giving.

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