Friday, November 11, 2011

Christmas Shopping: On your mark!

I have been in a continual nervous sweat ever since Halloween because it was then that I'd realized that I hadn't started my Christmas shopping yet! 

Call me paranoid, over-prepared, or just plain crazy, but I usually have the bulk of it done by now.  I'm just a poor secretary, you see, so buying a couple things here, a couple things there, starting in October is the best way for me to avoid using that credit card that I'm so close to having paid off after nearly twenty years of trying.

Last night I jumped in feet first after receiving a 20% off coupon for Kohl's in the mail.  Kohl's is a great store and very conveniently located to where I live.  But, Kohl's is also the king of brainwashing.  If you've ever paid full price for something at Kohl's,  you're a sucker (sorry, was trying to be delicate there!)  Every single item in the store is overpriced by a whopping percentage.  That way they can have amazing sales every single week offering you 40-50% off.  You're not going to pay the $40 on the tag for a pair of pajamas.  But, you might pay $20 when you see the huge "50% off!" sign on the rack above it.  (P.S. those jammies are probably actually worth $10.) 

Most of the clothes and housewares at Kohl's are their own signature brands, so they can play the whole mark-up game (I love many of the Kohl's signature brands, however, so if you can find a good sale + coupon combo or wait it out until the clearance rack, you can still get a decent price.) Brand names is where you can really score big at this store.  If you venture into the toy aisle, you'll see that the toys, books and games are all brand name, so the discounts there are sincere (Albeit smaller.  More like 10-20%.)  The selection is smaller than your average department or store toy, only a couple meager aisles, but they have a diverse selection, so if you see what you need you can usually do pretty well.  I got a toy with a retail price of $39.99 yesterday that was on sale for $23.99.  My coupon brought the price down to $19.19.  It's hard to find a more than 50% discount at an actual toy store, so "Go me!"  (Another cheap place you may have never thought of for toys is Big Lots.  So long as you're not looking for key lighting and snooty ambiance in your shopping experience, Big Lots is worth a gander.)

Where Kohl's shopping rules is where the coupons are involved.  Now, the only way to get on the coupon wagon is to sign up for a Kohl's charge, so only those with self-control read ahead.  The coupons they'll mail you can only be used on Kohl's charge card purchases (ie. You can not use the coupon and then pay with cash or debit.)  The idea on their end being that you'll impulsively shove more into your over-sized cart and then pay the bill off in increments, earning them interest on your purchase as well.  Coupons can range between 15-30% off and involve a lottery like thrill of peeling off a secret sticker to reveal what your random discount will be this time around.  (Upset I didn't get 30% off this season, but relieved it was more than 15%.  They've got me suckered too, I guess...)

Set a budget, put that money aside and pay that bill the moment it arrives in the mail.  Or, you can be like a savvy relative of mine who, immediately after using a coupon, will toss her shopping bags into the car turn right back around, march to the service desk, and pay the bill that same day.  No one's getting any interest charges out of this family!

So, with coupon in hand (or purse) I took Kohl's by storm last night.  Holiday music being piped in from above as my soundtrack, I scored gifts for four and somehow rewarded myself with four gifts for myself as well.  This is a Christmas shopping problem with me.  I always feel such pride in checking names off of my list, that I feel I've earned some sort of trophy prize.  Sure, I did need a couple pairs of pants and sweaters for work.  But, if I peeked into my over-stuffed closet with honest eyes, I'd probably realize that "need" may just be another four-letter word in my vocabulary.  (What I really "needed" was some newer pants and sweaters.)

So, today was Target's turn.  No holiday music at Target, just the out-of-tune symphony of toddlers wailing away in their shopping carts. No coupons at Target either, but their sales are pretty reasonable and their clearance even better! 

I got stumped in the toy aisle after seeing this cushy cuddly Joker doll. (?!)  There were two of them lying in a display box together, like a dual-sized coffin, staring up at the ceiling with that evil-making grin frozen in place.  Blech!  Nightmares anyone?

After I recovered from the Joker-as-a-cuddly-bedmate-for-children shock, I was able to check four more people off of my list and I even put my "reward" pair of black boots back on the shelf, if you can believe it!  (I can't.  Although I already own three pairs of tall black boots, and two pairs or short ones.  These ones were medium-height and clearanced out to only $17.98.  Okay, Kim, you did the right thing, don't dwell...)  I did somehow end up with a new hat though.  But, it was only because it was clearanced out to a mere $2.48.  I didn't need a new hat either, but that's just Taco Bell change, and it's ever so slightly cuter than the dozen I already own, so no lectures!

Reaching the almost half-way point in my shopping before Thanksgiving is thrilling!  And, so long as I can keep my own "needs" and trophies out of the picture, the rest of this shopping season should be a breeze. 

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