By Claire Wood
Guest Blogger

As the holiday season is quickly approaching, there is no shortage of marketing efforts to help you shop until you drop. From television ads, catalogs in the mail, to your social media feeds full of every idea under the sun, no matter where you look the message is clear: ‘Tis the season for holiday shopping!

Below are 5 unique holiday shopping ideas to keep in mind as you make your lists and check them twice.

1. Shop Locally

There is no better way to support your local community than to look for places to shop that support local businesses. From local restaurants to retail stores, giving back to these shops directly keeps dollars in your town or city. According to Civic Economics, for every $100 spent at a locally-owned business, $73 remains in the local economy. These dollars, when reinvested into the community, indirectly benefit military families. Shopping locally is convenient, reduces your carbon footprint, helps create demand for local jobs, and often puts high-quality items into the hands of those on your holiday gift list.

Image from Unsplash.

2. Support Handmade

There’s certainly an appeal to using many of the big-name retailers that can promise quick two-day shipping and easy returns. However, there is also something super satisfying about scouring sites like Etsy for handmade items that fit the needs and interests of everyone on your gift list. Etsy is an online marketplace where independent crafters, artists, and collectors can sell vintage, handmade, or custom-made jewelry, clothing, home décor, art, toys, and more. Etsy and other retailers, such as Shopify, Big Cartel, and Military Spouse and Veteran-based Spouse-ly, offer unique items as well as options for personalization for the gift recipient.

3. Don’t Overlook AAFES

This year in particular, the national warnings about slow shipping and broken supply chains just might have you worried about your gift purchases arriving on time. Look no further than your Army and Air Force Exchange Service, AAFES. Not only does the military’s largest retailer offer online shopping if you prefer to avoid crowds, but whether in store or online, this option boasts a huge benefit: no sales tax. This savings can particularly add up on high-cost electronic items like gaming systems, televisions, and laptops. Other big ticket items, such asbicycles, toys, furniture, firearms, and housewares, are usually in good supply at the Exchange. Returns are also easy as you can buy online and return in store. Additionally, AAFES prides itself on excellent customer service should you need it.

4. Consider Gifting Experiences

If you can’t imagine adding any more physical stuff to your household because you’re already at capacity and you know a PCS is looming, consider giving the gift of an experience instead. Consider things like concert tickets, cooking classes, or even a zoo or museum membership for adults and kids alike. Subscriptions are also wildly popular these days. From unlimited movie-going access, book-of-the-month clubs, make-up and personal care boxes, flower deliveries, to fitness wear or STEM-themed toy-building kits, knowing the gift will keep on giving throughout the year is an added bonus to both the gift-giver and recipient.

5. Do-It-Yourself

Not all gifts have to come from the store or online. Some of the best gifts come from the heart and hands. Whether you are tight on funds or are just simply looking for a creative, personal way to give a gift, a Do-It-Yourself gift can be a beautiful thing. Your talents can turn into treasures with just a little bit of planning and time. Knit or crochet a blanket or scarf. Paint or sketch a family portrait or still of the recipient’s house. Write and perform a song or poem. Again, consider doing a year-long themed gift like a printable coupon for a monthly pizza or dessert date with the kids or a monthly homemade cookie shipment to out of state grandparents. There’s nothing better than a thoughtful homemade gift.

Image from Unsplash.

A final word about holiday shopping: It’s very easy to get caught up in the moment of shopping, giving, and feeling festively generous. Be mindful that no one on your holiday gift list expects you to put yourself in financial hardship in order to make the holiday more meaningful. Retailers know this conundrum you face and make it super easy to defer your purchases by offering incentives on store credit cards with extra discounts, payment installment plans, cash back offers, or even freebies for signing up. Don’t let holiday shopping derail your big money goals by busting your budget or deepening your debt which will follow you into the New Year. Setting limits and honoring them may be the greatest gift you give yourself!

Claire Wood is a military spouse who calls home anywhere the Army sends her. She loves reading, hosting friends, and keeping houseplants alive. She shares on Instagram @home_sweet_military_home and her 2015 book, Mission Ready Marriage is available on Amazon. 

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