Monday, December 15, 2008

How I'm Keeping The Holiday Shopping Cheap, Chic & Easy

UPDATED with lower-priced shopping links!

No one likes to feel overwhelmed at the holidays, but when you have kids to shop for, family coming into town, gifts to ship all over the country, keeping one's cool is necessary for survival.

I've had a few readers ask "So, what are you REALLY giving your family for Christmas?" or "Was that holiday gift guide what you're really giving your family, or was that just a way to get free stuff?" I am proud to say many of those reviews truly were gifts for my family, and all of the items in the guide were honest-to-goodness recommendations.

My main requirement for the 2008 holidays was to keep things cheap, chic and easy. No stressing, no throwing down a lot of cash just to have something meaningless under the tree. No feeling overwhelmed at the shops or when looking at the credit card balance. Finding easy online shopping solutions and avoiding the horrible, panic-attack-inducing malls were KEY to my attempt at zen holiday shopping. Local, independently-owned shops and interesting online retailers made this years' shopping a cinch.

So here I'll be disclosing what the APISS crew and family are receiving from me this year. (If you're one of those people, please stop reading now. That means you Mom.) All ideas are available online or support a local business. None require a visit to a place with a large parking structure or long lines.


Charlie requested from Santa, "An R/C car, a cool shirt, stickers and a surprise." LOVE THESE REQUESTS, especially his request of clothes (a boy after my own heart.) The Santa letter he wrote, in rebus form since he's still learning to write, is definitely scrapbook worthy.

  • Dino Print tee by Glug at The Pajama Squid $32 My son's other two dinosaur print t-shirts were his all-time favorites, but one is now showing bare midriff and the other is stained beyond belief. Enter Tiffany of The Pajama Squid's superb find of a shirt that is both stylish and worthy of attribution to Santa.
  • Ultimate Planetarium at Discovery Store $55.97 This is the big present from Mommy and Daddy. This computer-aided, motorized indoor planetarium will allow our beloved kid to view the night sky as it would appear anywhere in the world. Projecting 88 constellations, 12 celestial objects and more, it transforms an ordinary room into a stellar display. The best feature? The one-hour timer so kids can fall asleep under the stars.

Eve is too young to write a letter to Santa, but she's not too young to love receiving presents from the man in the red suit or Mommy and Daddy.
  • Oscar the Grouch and Elmo K'Nex Building Sets $5.37 each I love the marrying of my kid's two fave Sesame Street characters with imaginative building and fine-motor skill development. So cute! Featured in the APISS Holiday Gift Guide.
  • Little Red Riding Hood tee from Tiny Tots Baby Boutique on Etsy $4.50 Sister needs a tee from Santa too. I found an adorable, vintage-style graphic tee in bright red depicting my girl's favorite fairy tale for mere pennies. The exact tee is out of stock at this cute Etsy shop, but look for others like Little Miss Muffet and Raggedy Ann that are adorable and CHHHEEEAAAAPP.
  • Story Time Felt "Paper" Dolls with pre-cut clothes $26.99 As featured in my Holiday Gift Guide, my girl will LOVE all of the fun and cuteness of dressing old-fashioned paper dolls, but none of the frustrating punching out, tabs or ripping. I chose the girl with the blonde bob, just like my Evie.
  • Lego Golden Anniversary Set $39.99 Although my kids still play with their Duplos, they're also ready for this great set of 700 regulation-size Legos for imaginative building.

  • Hotel Room in Downtown DC $100 Again, we abuse my mom when she's in town and take off for 24 hours for art museums, dinner out and adult conversation as a gift to each other. Using Yahoo Travel, we found a deal for a night at the Beacon Hotel in Dupont Circle that includes a bottle of champagne.
  • Southwest Airlines gift card to visit us for Christmas. Since I put it on my card that accrues airline miles, it will help us see each other TWICE. And you KNOW it's easier to fly one grandma to Silver Spring than four APISSers to California!
  • Vintage handkerchiefs from Tiara Day in Kensington, one of the coolest stores in the entire universe.
  • Grandma Needs A Cocktail long sleeved tee by Baby Brewing $32 My friend Kristen Hammond makes these awesome screenprinted tees. I wear my "Mommy Needs a Cocktail" top about once a week to add levity to stressful days, and Kristen has started making "Grandma needs...." tees too. E-mail her if you think your child's grandma needs wine, beer, a cocktail, etc. I know my mom will need one of each after babysitting my kids for 24 hours!!


  • Cool, Anthropologie-esque earrings found at Lalla, Inc. and Tiara Day in Kensington. This post talks about my love affair with the treasure trove gift hunt in Kensington's Antique Row.
  • FREE Vista Print Photo Calendars - Exclusive link for APISS readers! Shipping is on you and will be about $4 for Christmas delivery. Just upload 13 of your fave pics - one for each month and one for the cover - and you have a Christmas gift that makes everyone smile and can always be used.
  • Princeton Plainsboro Teaching Hospital tee $17.95 My youngest bro and I bond over our shared House obsession. Don't even get us started on the Sherlock Holmes/Gregory House similarities, we're worse than the Lincoln/JFK conspiracy theorists.
  • Love That Dog $5.99 This is one of my favorite books EVER. Poems and love and learning. Amazing story.
So there you have it - that's what I'm really getting my loved ones, and how I did all my shopping from my home office or while happily popping in to little local shops that stock adorable, unique items at prices cheaper than Wal-Mart. This year shopping was completely stress-free and enjoyable, once I resolved to not step foot into a mall or big box store.

This post was inspired by my love of shopping and commitment to eliminating stress whenever possible, as well as the Parent Bloggers partnership with Family Aware. If holiday stress is getting you down and you're feeling depressed, Family Aware has many helpful tips and resources to help families with anxiety and depression.

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