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Christmas Shopping with Kids – Preparation is Key

christmas shopping with kids preparation

Just a few weeks to go before you have to be done with your holiday shopping. How do you do it? Are you a hit-the-stores kind of parent? Or would you rather shop online?

I do a little of both. Every now and then, a gift idea will come to me. For example, yesterday I opened my phone and ordered a Pokeball set for my 8 year old. He’s become very – shall we say – obsessed with the little creatures. But I know that, just like every year, I won’t be able to limit myself to online shopping.

On or around December 23rd of every year I panic. What if I didn’t get enough gifts? Oh no! My older son has more gifts to open than my younger son! The list goes on, and I’m never fully satisfied with what I’ve bought.

So I hit the stores. I always prefer to go by myself, because it’s usually the kids I’m shopping for. But on occasion I’ll bring the little ones along, and I’ve learned a few tricks along the way. Here’s how I make Christmas shopping with kids more bearable.

I avoid it. 

I’ll just be honest with you. I dislike Christmas shopping with kids. And it’s not because they ask for things, or misbehave. It’s because they get bored. And the more bored they get, the more inclined I am to spend money on snacks, drinks, entertaining little toys and other things to occupy them.

When I bring my kids Christmas shopping, my Christmas budget plans fail epically. Furthermore, I end up in a bad mood because they get cranky, and the whole day is just a lousy experience. That said, my biggest and best tip for Christmas shopping with kids is to avoid it at all costs.

I prepare for the trip. 

If I find myself with no other choice but to bring the kids along, I make sure I fully prepare for Christmas shopping with helpers in tow. Here are a few tips.

  • Be sure the kids are wearing comfortable shoes. There’s nothing worse than a blister-footed child.
  • Set expectations. For example, tell them that at noon you’ll take them to sit down for a burger, but until 12, they’re going to have to eat the snacks you’ve packed. Oh yeah, be sure to pack snacks.
  • Depending on their age, I choose a time that’s good for their schedules. For instance, when they were younger, I would shop in the morning. That way nap time would be undisturbed.
  • Stock your diaper bag. It may seem like common sense but if you’ve got a very little one, be sure to have everything you need. A change of clothes, diapers, wipes, cream and extra bottles or food are critical to successful Christmas shopping with kids.

If your kiddo is sick, tired or cranky, it might be best to enlist the help of a babysitter. Alternatively, you can bring the babysitter along with you. Pay her well and treat her to one of those fancy coffee drinks.

I have my kids prepare for the trip. 

I started doing this a long time ago, and loved the idea so much that I continue to do it today. A few weeks before Christmas, (like now), take your kids to the store. It doesn’t really matter which store, but a big box retailer like Walmart has worked best for me.

Tell your kids before you go that Christmas is just around the corner, and you won’t be buying any toys today. Sound unreasonable? Here’s what I tell my kids.

“Christmas is coming up in just a few weeks. I want to make your Christmas special, so I can’t afford to buy any extra toys today. But we’re going to go look to see if there’s anything we can put on your wish list. We’ll write down your list, and send it to Santa.”

Then do it. Armed with your mobile phone, have your kids point out all the gifts they’d love to receive at Christmas. Snap a picture of each, and allow your kids to “choose” as many gifts as they’d like to include on your list.

When you get home, take your time to write out a list, then send it to Santa.

I compare prices – religiously. 

Remember those pictures you took on your imaginary shopping trip? You’re going to put them to good use, so make sure they’re clear images.

Technology is wonderful, and it can save you a lot of money! Google has an extension which allows you to search by image. All you’ll do is upload the image from your phone to the Google search tool, and you’ll be rewarded with results matching the exact toy your kid wanted.

This is a brilliant way to compare prices. Instead of defaulting to Amazon or Walmart, Google will allow you to expand out to other, smaller stores. For example, whereas remote control air swimmers are almost $70 on Amazon, they’re $48.99 here.  Magic Tracks are $45 on Amazon, but are $35 here.

See? A little bit of technology saves a lot of money. And now you know exactly what your kids want for Christmas, either from you or from Santa.

I check shipping times. 

Again, it may sound obvious to you. But please make sure you check the shipping times on the gifts that you buy. There’s nothing more panic-inducing than thinking your gift will arrive by Christmas, then finding out it won’t ship until New Year’s Day.

Even if you do have one of the subscriptions which gives you free 2-day shipping, the item isn’t always in stock. To avoid last-minute confusion, be sure to check the shipping time and availability carefully before you click the Order Now button.

Christmas shopping with kids isn’t as exasperating as some would make it out to be. In fact, it’s fun! Including your kids in choosing gifts for others is a great way to teach them about giving, too. From my experience, you should avoid bring them along if you can. At least unless you have reinforcements like a good nanny. But if they do come with you, a little preparation can make the trip fun and memorable!

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