I've been very good this year, stayed on budget and I did not clock anyone, much as I felt like it. Over the years I've learned a few strategies to make it less likely that I end up on the news.
- Shop Early. The Mister and I started a strict "cash only" policy when it comes to Christmas presents when we first got married, and it's been very nice to not have any credit card bills coming in in January. But this means we have to buy a few presents every week, starting around Halloween. Sometimes that means people get Jack o' Lantern socks or goblin-themed wrapping paper, but that's what they get.
- Wear appropriate footwear. High heels and smooth soles are right out of the question for Christmas shopping; you need something that will let you bob and weave while moving at Mach I like a runningback at the Super Bowl. It helps if the floor is dry, too.
- Wear thin layers. For some reason, they keep the malls at a temperature that is appropriate for growing bananas. This might be comfortable for the staff, but when I am wearing a winter coat, boots, a scarf and a turtleneck, I can create my own weather system just walking around. Wearing polar fleece and shedding layers like a demented stripper is the only way to make it work.
- Avoid crowds. The older I get, the less tolerant I am of herds of lumbering wildebeest with shopping bags. I get to the mall when it opens, and, with any luck, am leaving within a half an hour. This sometimes means that I grab the first thing I see when I get in the door (hence the Jack o' Lantern socks) but anyone getting a present from me knows what they're getting into.
- Shop on-line first. How much do I love the internet? So much I would marry it, if I could. Being able to go on-line to see if they have it before I venture out is worth the price of admission alone. And I know you are wondering why I just don't do ALL of my shopping on-line, and that is because I've tried to, and although things like books are just fine to get without seeing them, the time that Barb the Receptionist bought a Ralph Lauren t-shirt in Large that barely fit a then-8-year-old Thing 2 has made me wary.
- Do not mutter under your breath. Sadly, I'm not as quiet as I think I am, and when I sigh and talk to myself, it only gets me in trouble. How was I supposed to know the lady in front of me has ears like a cat when I said "Oh, for God's sake, take your 10% off coupon and eat it instead of the chocolates, your ass certainly will be better off"?
- Don't take a cart. I get that stores want to be sure that they don't run out of stuff, but man, do they ever pack themselves tight. There was a Hallmark store I went into recently that had so many candles and ornaments and calendars and crap you couldn't actually get into the store, you had invade it, like Normandy. A cart at Costco is the height of folly. Those carts are big enough to fit in an entire live sheep and a birthday cake and tires anyway, but at Christmas time, the place is so crowded with people and stuff that I imagine if you got a cart, you'd get stuck back in the paper towel department and wouldn't be found until after New Years.
- Revise your plans. You thought you'd get a cashmere scarf for your brother, but they have acrylic ones on sale right by the door? Remember, people don't know what you planned on doing, they only know what they get.
- Wear earplugs. Because if I hear "Saaaaaaanta Claus is comin' to town!" one more time....