Friday, December 21, 2012

'Tis The Season For Post-Christmas Discounts

"I haven't finished my holiday shopping yet." It's a line I've heard from many of my friends over the past week. A thoughtful bunch, they are. They care so much for their loved ones that they spend weeks contemplating the perfect gifts before resolving to battle the crowds and buy whatever's left at Walmart on Christmas Eve. That's what the season of giving is all about.

Christmas just has a way of always sneaking up on them. This year, it's scheduled for December 25. I don't think my pals were expecting that, which is why they're behind on their shopping. "Christmas is on the 25th this year? Really? Seems early, doesn't it? Thanksgiving was just a few weeks ago."

Perhaps it would be less confusing for them if Christmas was referred to more often as the "25th of December," much like Independence Day is commonly referred to as the "Fourth of July." It's very easy to remember when the Fourth of July will be held on a year-to-year basis. It's always scheduled for the Fourth of July. Fourth of July: buy fireworks. 25th of December: buy gifts. Simple enough.

Websites like Amazon give lazy folks like my friends an excuse to wait until the last minute to buy presents. Buy a product on the 21st, and it will still qualify for two-day shipping; the 22nd, one-day shipping; and the 24th, local express delivery. You're out of luck on Christmas morning, but you can still purchase e-gift cards that can be emailed immediately. 'Cause who doesn't love the feeling of waking up early, running down the stairs and to the Christmas tree with laptop in hand, and checking their email to discover a gift card waiting for them?

I am not celebrating any of the gift-giving holidays this month, so I'm under no pressure. But I do have big shopping plans nonetheless. Specifically, I will visit my local drugstore the day after Christmas.

Why? Because all of its Christmas items will be discounted. The sales are ridiculous. December 26 is like a second Black Friday for those of us who didn't receive any gifts 24 hours earlier.

On Christmas night -- around 11 p.m. or so -- I'll line up outside my nearest drugstore, with a cup of coffee in my hand, anxiously waiting for the clock to strike midnight so I can take advantage of the post-holiday doorbuster deals. The best part is the store is open 24 hours, so I don't even need to bust down the door.

When I enter the store, the adrenaline really kicks in. It feels like Christmas has come 364 days early. Holiday cards, wrapping paper, Santa hats, replica Charlie Brown Christmas trees...the prices are slashed on all of them, plus so much more.

And it's all stuff I can use. For example, Christmas wrapping paper is festive no matter the time of the year. The look on my one friend's face each summer when I give him his birthday present, wrapped in paper decorated with reindeer and ornaments, is priceless. It's like Christmas in July!

The Santa hats...with the help of a pair of scissors, they can be fashioned into extra pairs of underwear, if you're running low and don't have time to do laundry. You just have to remember to cut off the white puffy ball at the top of the hat.

More than anything, I stock up on the holiday candy. I don't understand why the stores are so eager to get rid of them. Is it wrong to eat candy canes after Christmas? Do they all expire at the end of the year? Are they no longer fresh after that? I don't ever remember seeing a "sell by" date on candy canes.

What about other seasonal candy, like the Reese's Peanut Butter Trees? Are they not as tasty in January as they are in December? I don't think so. I like the idea of eating peanut butter candy shaped like trees in late winter or early spring, while everyone else is eating boring Peanut Butter Cups shaped like a circle.

This isn't a completely selfish shopping expedition, by the way. I do pick up one special item for my friends, something I know they will appreciate: Amazon gift cards. No shipping required. I just cover them in my newly-purchased Christmas wrapping paper and hand them over. My guess is they save the gift cards until December 21 of the following year.