Published In The Great North Arrow, December 1, 2022: Christmas Shopping For Aunt Edna

- jim Young

With Christmas just weeks away, who has their Christmas shopping done? Nearly done? Started?

Whenever I used to ask that question of my coworkers in December, I was met with scorn and sternly told, "Don't remind me. I'm running out of time."

“Hey, don’t blame me.” I would innocently reply in defense. “I warned you last January 25th that you had 11 months until Christmas and on February 25th I reminded you that you had 10 months until Christmas and so on.” 

Yes, I was that guy.

“You got mad at me then and wouldn’t listen,” I would remind them, “so you have no excuse for ‘running out time’ now.”

Personally, I love to save at least some of my Christmas Shopping until the last minute as I enjoy wandering through the bustle of the stores among the crowds, admiring the decorations and listening to the Christmas Music playing in the malls.

But some people like to do their Christmas Shopping early. As an occasional writer for the website Quora, I was recently asked by a follower, “Is there a downside to starting holiday shopping early?”

The most obvious reason for doing your Christmas Shopping early is simply to get it out of the way. This provides you with more time and less stress to enjoy the whole season to its fullest. Many people find it difficult to save, so buying your presents early can also be an effective way to manage your holiday spending.

Of course, if you haven’t already done so,  it’s too late to do your Christmas Shopping early this year, but just in case one of your New Year’s Resolutions is to do your Christmas Shopping early next year, be aware of some of the pitfalls before you make that commitment to Father Time.

1. Deals

Beginning with Black Friday and on, both Shopping Malls AND online outlets will be saturated with Sales! Sales! Sales! That gift you bought for Aunt Edna back in August might now be available for 10%, 25% or even 50% off. 

In fact some of the sales are so good, I’ve even heard that some people that take advantage of these sales aren’t even Christmas Shopping. They are buying many of these items just for themselves! Imagine that!

2. Returns

People who do their Christmas Shopping early tend to put a lot of thought into their gift purchases. They know Aunt Edna’s size, colour preferences and tastes and are certain that she is just going to adore the winter coat they bought for her last spring when the stores were having their Winter Clothing Clearance Sale. 

Too bad Aunt Edna died this summer. It could happen. But even if Aunt Edna is still alive and kicking, maybe she gained some weight this year. Or perhaps she fell in love with the new line of winter coats that were released this fall. The coat you bought her last winter only had a 30 day return policy.

What are you going to do if Aunt Edna asks you if you would mind terribly if she exchanged your gift for something else?

Of course, even if you purchase this same gift in December, that 30 day return policy may have expired by the time Aunt Edna decides to return it. However, at this time of year, most stores will realize you may be purchasing items as a Christmas Gift and the return clock won’t start ticking until December 25, giving Aunt Edna sufficient time to make her exchange. 

3. Batteries Included

Or maybe you bought Aunt Edna something that requires batteries. (I won’t even suggest what that might be.)  Most brand name batteries such as Eveready or Duracell have a long shelf life these days but batteries that are often included with electronics are a much cheaper brand with a much shorter shelf life. Will they still work by the time Christmas rolls around? There’s nothing more disappointing than getting a “toy” for Christmas but not having batteries to try it out.

4. Warranty

Most warranties, whatever their duration, begin as of the date of purchase. A 90 day warranty for an item purchased in May won’t be much good if the item isn’t even opened for another 7 months.

5. Best Before Date 

Perhaps Aunt Edna prefers a meat and cheese gift basket. Or is it jam and crackers? Better check the expiry dates. Aunt Edna is a fussy old broad and you know she won’t eat anything that is even 1 day past the expiry date.

6. Duplicates

Aunt Edna is very special to you so you don’t mind spending a few extra dollars on her for Christmas. In February you find the perfect gift for Aunt Edna. It’s not something that requires a warranty or will expire. It’s not prone to fashion trends or changing tastes. It’s something that’s unique and you KNOW Aunt Edna is not going to want to return it. It’s that Royal Doulton figurine that she’s been wanting for years. 

The Royal Doulton figurine can’t be returned because it’s a “going out of business sale” but that’s okay because the price is right. You know that it’s the one gift that will outshine all the others next Christmas and it’s enough to get you into her will, if Aunt Edna can just hang on that long.

But what you hadn’t counted on was that Aunt Edna’s son had the same idea for Mother’s Day as did her husband for their anniversary. And who would’ve thought Aunt Edna’s sister Sally would have bought one for her for Labour Day! Seriously? Who even gives presents for Labour Day?

By the time Christmas rolls around Aunt Edna already has 3 of these figurines which makes your gift very anti-climatic. Now you're going to have to exfoliate her feet to get into the will.

7. Where Did I Put That?

Aunt Edna, god bless her soul, is a snoop. You know that when she comes to visit she’s going to be checking out every nook and cranny in your house from the medicine chest to your underwear drawer. So you’re going to have to find a good hiding spot for Aunt Edna’s gift that you bought last summer. 

How about the loft in the garage? Aunt Edna would never go up there. But then neither do you and eventually you forget all about it. December comes around and you find yourself scrambling to purchase a gift for Aunt Edna muttering “Why did I leave my Christmas Shopping to the last minute?”

You’ll find Aunt Edna’s hidden gift eventually, some time after Christmas but that’s okay. You can give it to her next Christmas, subject of course to all the other pitfalls listed here.

8. Your Bank Or Mine

As I mentioned in the introduction, many people will do their Christmas Shopping early as a means of budgeting their money by spreading their purchases out throughout the year. This is most often done because they find it difficult to save money. That’s a poor excuse. Show some will power and learn to save!

Why should businesses be using YOUR money? Purchasing Christmas Gifts early is NOT a good investment. Even a low rate savings account would be a better option.

Saving will help you avoid all the other pitfalls of doing your Christmas Shopping Early while leaving your money liquid for any emergencies that might crop up. 

Should Aunt Edna become ill and need some meds or therapy that are not covered by her health plan, she will appreciate your financial assistance much more than an ugly sweater you have stored in the loft in your garage. And it just might be enough to get you into her will too.

- 30 -


Stuff others read

Published In The Great North Arrow, June 1, 2023: Do You Want Fries And Taxes With That?