The day after Thanksgiving is the official starting point for the Christmas shopping. Inasmuch as newspapers are expected to provide public service and since most of you guys probably would normally wait until Dec. 20 to start shopping, I offer a few hints to make your holiday shopping easier.

First, organize. What are your goals? To spend as little money as possible? To suck up to someone, be it boss, spouse or significant other? Or, like me, to get it over with so you can move on to more fun matters, like cleaning the gutters?

Having decided your priorities, create the list. Information should include the item, its price and the store at which it can be purchased. A list is essential; success is measured on the number of items crossed out.

Plan your outing. The goal is avoid having to go to even one more store than is necessary and to spend not one more minute than you must.

Men, you must do this alone. The most inefficient shopping occurs when you take someone else with you, especially your wife. Even another guy can make it more difficult, as you’ll end up at Bass Pro Shop and you don’t want to buy your wife’s gifts there.

Cash or charge? The item itself may dictate strategy, particularly if your wife sees the credit card receipts, in which case expensive purchases should be charged so she can see how much you care, and inexpensive gifts should be bought with cash so she can’t.

You may be tempted to shop online. Forget it. You want to see what you’re buying first and get it wrapped for free, right?

Don’t forget to visit your hardware and auto parts stores, which always have gifts for the ladies, although it takes a special woman to appreciate the gift of a power washer or a case of 5W-40.

Be careful what you buy. Generally speaking, the following are not good gift ideas: camouflage clothing, NASCAR paraphernalia, detergent, home STD test kits, gift certificates from Weight Watchers, framed pictures of you with a big fish or buck, perfume for under $20 per pint, Cable Guy CDs, duct tape, any alcohol bottled in Mason jars and generic cigarettes.

And if you were at all inclined toward buying any of those items, it’s probably best that you not attempt to purchase clothing for your spouse or girlfriend. However, if you must, here’s a crucial bit of advice. Surreptitiously find her dress size and make sure any clothing you purchase is at least one, preferably, two, sizes smaller. She’ll be flattered by your estimation of her small size and will get to exchange your selection for something not totally hideous.

OK guys, start your shopping.

Mark Beardsley is editor of The Commerce News. He lives in Commerce.

For all of the editorials and columns, see the Nov. 26 issue of The Commerce News.

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