It’s the Most Wonderful (and Stressful) Time of the Year!

Hands down, Christmas is my favorite holiday of the year.  And it is just around the corner – the holiday lights, the Christmas carols, the yummy smells of apple cider, Christmas pine, and peppermint! My 6-year old daughter is already giddy with excitement wondering what Santa will leave for her under the tree (she’s hoping for a surfboard and an Apple iTouch) and I’m teaching my 2-year old how to sing Jingle Bells. This weekend, I will be decorating my house from top to bottom in green, red, and gold, and my husband will be up on the rooftop hanging up the Christmas lights.  I’m so excited!

And then, there is the Christmas shopping. Cue the dramatic sound effect – Dun, dun, dun!!!

Don’t get me wrong, I love Christmas shopping and I really don’t mind the crowds like my husband does. But sometimes it can be a very overwhelming process because I am, for the most part, the lone shopper for my little family of four. (And before you judge me, I realize my little “problem” qualifies for #firstworldproblems.) This year is proving to be even more stressful – and here’s why:

  • This year we will be celebrating Christmas in Dallas, so my husband and I will need to plan carefully which presents to bring in the car with us and which ones (i.e. Santa’s gifts) to have shipped to Dallas.
  • My 6-year old daughter has already given me her Christmas list of about 30+ items on it, plus all of the items that she has circled in the Toys R Us, Target, and Walmart circulars. I’ve been able to whittle it down to about 10.
  • One more thing about my daughter – she’s discovered the American Girl Dolls.  Lord help me.
  • My budget: My husband is a big-time penny pincher and really “encourages” me to stay within our allotted budget.  The problem is that I’m really bad about sticking to a budget.
  • And finally, as a working mommy of two, my time is limited. Looking at the calendar, I see that I have less than four weekends to complete my holiday shopping. Can I have a glass of spiked apple cider now?

So, this year – I’m going to try something different to take the stress out of holiday shopping.  First off, I found this cool app called The Christmas List. This wonderful tool allows me to list out everyone on my shopping list, organize them by groups, track specific gifts for each person on my list and the stores where each item can be purchased. The best part about the app is that it tracks my spending to the penny!  My husband is very happy about my new budgeting tool.

Another new activity I am going to try this year is to do a little shopping via my iPhone – something, I’m ashamed to say, I have never done before.  And I won’t be the only one, according to recent reports.  InMobi, the world’s largest independent mobile ad network, recently announced that the 2011 holiday shopping season will be the biggest yet for mobile commerce, with an estimated 60 million mobile users planning to utilize their devices during the upcoming holiday weekend.  I won’t purchase all of my items via my smartphone, but I’d like to try purchasing a few big ticket items (such as the battery-powered Lightening McQueen ride-on car for my son) and have it shipped to Dallas.  I’ve also downloaded apps from my favorite retail brands and will try out some of their in-store capabilities, such as QR codes to take advantage of in-store sales.

Budgeting issue resolved? Check.  Lack of shopping time issue resolved? Check. I feel much better already, and ready to take on Black Friday and Cyber Monday!

Postscript: As I write this blog post, I can’t help but to hear my mother’s voice in my ear saying, “Catherine, remember the reason for the season!” Whether you are religious or not, I truly believe that Christmas is THE season for giving.  While you are out shopping this year, please remember those less fortunate – especially the children.  Below are a few organizations that Ketner Group donates to each holiday season:
Angel Tree
Austin Children’s Shelter
Retail Orphan Initiative