The Art of Shopping and Managing Expectations
Shop RightI’ve never attempted to do my shopping on Christmas Eve. I don’t think I could take the heat, anxiety and stress of swirling between hoards of people from one shop to another, always relieved to be leaving the shop, but feeling I have quite possibly bought the wrong present. Surprisingly, plenty of men put themselves through this, but why? Perhaps because they have given absolutely no thought to it in the run-up and have left it too late even to go for the online option.
Sensible tacticsLet us consider another philosophy away from the denial approach. Christmas shopping can be made into an art, to be perfected through the years, so that it feels like something you do by accident, painlessly — almost a pleasure, even. To achieve this, it’s important to put some sensible tactics in place.
Enjoy the mulled wine and hand the blighters overHow I tackle Christmas shopping is by singling out a day and, on that day, walking into town early - giving myself enough time to have a hearty breakfast (the Full Monty) before the shops open. As preparation, I have established a clear idea of what I want to buy and for whom so that my choice of shops narrows down to no more than five. Once I buy something, I’ll get it wrapped in the store if the service is available too. In fact, a shop that offers this service has more of a chance of making it into the big five. I’m delighted to see that the service of wrapping gifts for free is returning, which was once standard practice. A fine innovation at one of my local restaurants is that they are offering to wrap your presents while you eat - superb, mission accomplished! I enjoy the mulled wine and hand the blighters over.
As an alternative to the single mission, buying outside the Christmas season has its own advantages. Prices are more sensible and there’s more choice - many products are put away in shops at Christmas to leave room for those specially packaged, and priced, for the festive season. Plus, there’s nothing wrong with giving a pair of loafers, a Panama hat or a linen jacket for Christmas when people are often thinking about next year's holidays.
Bright yellow cardigan for a red-haired friendGiving Christmas gifts should be about meeting or exceeding expectations. Be ready to note down any hints your loved ones drop through the year. The present can be inexpensive, but may be something they wouldn't normally treat themselves to every day. A triple-milled soap or cashmere socks comes to mind. If you travel, try and find time to shop for unique or unusual presents. Keep your audience in mind — no use giving a blender to someone who rarely puts a foot in the kitchen, or a bright yellow cardigan to a red-haired friend. Avoid anything that emphasises shortcomings, wrinkle-creams or gym memberships are a no-no. And above all, if you're not inspired, don’t be afraid to ask.