It’s a Jungle Out There: Tips For Surviving Christmas Shopping

  • November 30, 2014
  • Jenna Maxwell
Tips for Surviving Christmas Shopping

If you are like me, and quite frankly most folks, you probably haven’t even started your holiday gift-buying yet.  Every year I swear to start shopping at least earlier, but it just never happens. I’m pretty sure that if I did shop early, the eventuality would be that I would just end up buying twice as much. The reality is that if you wait until the holiday season is here (and guess what, it’s here folks…) to shop then you will have to deal with the perils that come with it.  Here are a few tips to help you navigate through the holiday shopping chaos.

Create a Reasonable Budget.  Yes, it is the holiday season, and who really wants to think about budgeting?  Creating a realistic financial game plan for your shopping, however, is going to save you a lot of unnecessary pain in January.  Do whatever you can to avoid unnecessary credit card charges.  The holidays don’t last forever and sometimes the realities that come after the fun is all over can be very painful.  A thoughtful and realistic budget will help alleviate a lot of the post-holiday blues.

Make A List.  Hey, Santa has been doing this for years--and so should you.  Write down each person you need to buy a gift for and include ideas for items they might like as a gift.  If your list if it seems financially unmanageable, consider discussing the possibility of drawing names or doing a Secret Santa instead of buying gifts for each person on your list. 

Do Your Research.  Knowing specifically what you are shopping for will save you a lot of time and frustration.  Doing online research in advance will help you be able to buy what you want without pressure or confusion while standing around in a crowded store.  Besides, sometimes finding knowledgeable help to assist you in a busy store is like finding the Holy Grail.  It’s far better to know what you want before you head out--and by all means, have a plan B in case your first idea turns out to be a giant fail.

Take Advantage of Cyber Monday.  Do you hear angels singing?  Seriously, Cyber-Monday may be the best thing to happen to store-weary shoppers.  Sitting in front of your computer and shopping the easy way can make your life a lot easier.  Most retailers will be offering special promotions, sales and discounts just for the occasion, so fire up that computer and after a few clicks; your shopping to-do list may disappear.  Online shoppers are less likely to be tempted by impulse buys, so if you are trying to stick to your list, online shopping is the way to go.  Many websites offer free or discounted gift-wrapping, which may save you even more time.  Look for “free shipping,” offers on your favorite sites.

Be Prepared.  There are some very simple things that every shopper should do to make their holiday shopping day a roaring success.  Get to the stores early before they are overly crowded.  Wear comfy shoes.  Make sure you are well fed and bring a water bottle to stay hydrated.  (No one said shopping wasn’t hard work!)  Bring a backpack or a large shopping bag to keep your purchases contained safely.

Put On Your Happy Face.  Knowing what you are getting yourself into is half the battle. Decide in advance that in spite of crowds, rude people, crying children, etc. that you are going to attempt to maintain a cheerful disposition during your shopping adventure.  Trust me, a good attitude will go a long way, even if it’s not always the easiest thing to create.

Expect The Worst.  If you expect to be disappointed on some level, you won’t be upset if this becomes your reality.  Popular items sell out, and fellow shoppers are tired and cranky and there’s never a place to park when you need one.  Try to keep your perspective positive in spite of all the potential caveats involved with shopping. After all, Christmas is not about the gifts as much as it should be about sharing good will to all those around us. 

Happy Shopping from Your Friends at Halloween Express! 

Black Friday Countdown

  • November 24, 2014
  • Jenna Maxwell
Black Friday 2014

Counting down the days until your favorite holiday isn’t so unusual at this time of the year.  After Halloween is over, it’s a pretty quick B-line right into Thanksgiving. From that point on, it’s a complete flurry of holiday activity as we snowball ourselves into Christmas and then straight into New Year’s.  It’s hard not to notice, however, that there seems to be a new event on many of our holiday calendars.  Not exactly a holiday in the traditional sense, but when it comes to anticipation and counting down the days to get ready for it, this event is big…and seems only to be getting bigger.  We’re talking about, of course, Black Friday.

Black Friday is an aptly named event that retailers anticipate all year long.  Black Friday is that glorious day that merchants look forward to because on this day, retail sales numbers finally go “black” as opposed to being in the red.  The Friday following Thanksgiving has long been considered the equivalent of “opening day” for the Christmas shopping season and for most retailers, the Christmas season truly is a "make it or break it" time. For the better part of the last century, you could safely say that Black Friday has been a huge part of American holiday tradition. 

Black Friday has become a kind of a big deal, and this isn’t true just for retailers.  Shoppers love a good bargain and since most people will be buying gifts for the holidays regardless, scoring a highly desired item that is also on sale before Christmas can feel pretty darn euphoric. In some cases, Black Friday could almost be called Black Thursday as many retailers now will begin their holiday specials early, even on Thanksgiving Day instead of holding out until after the big feast.  In recent years, Black Friday sales have become so popular and have held such a huge draw that the event itself has almost become a trendy ritual in itself.  Anxious, die-hard shoppers endure even freezing temps and long lines, waiting sometimes even overnight outside their favorite store, in order to be one of the first inside to score that very special deal.

One look in your email inbox can tell you that in some places, the Black Friday countdown may have already begun.  Black Friday pre-sales as well as countdowns to Black Friday sales is becoming the new normal come mid-November.  It seems that it won’t be long until the term Black Friday itself may become somewhat diluted by the fury it has created in itself.  Black Friday is no longer a one-day event.  What used to be a super day of shopping, in most cases begins on Thursday and doesn’t wrap up until after Cyber Monday, which traditionally falls on the Monday following Thanksgiving weekend.

Black Friday Facts: 

•    Some people LOVE to shop in an actual store, despite crowds, parking issues and long lines.  Over 135 million people will be shopping inside retail stores on Black Friday. In 2013, retail stores boasted about 12.3 billion dollars in sales on Thanksgiving and Black Friday alone.

•    Online shopping on Black Friday has continued to grow in popularity each year.  Nearly 2 billion dollars were spent on Black Friday last year by online shoppers with nearly 25% of these sales coming via Smartphones. 

•    Cyber Monday (the Monday following Black Friday) is rapidly gaining steam as the next big time retail holiday.  Online sales last Cyber Monday were over 2.2 billion dollars. 

•    When it comes to social media and what is being discussed therein, Black Friday talk even trumps chatter about Thanksgiving.  With more social conversations mentioning the terms “Black Friday” than even the Thanksgiving holiday itself, you can certainly see that many of us are clearly thinking more about shopping than we are about eating turkey.

•    26% of those surveyed said they would be shopping on Thanksgiving Day, either in a retail store or online.  34% plan on doing some shopping on Black Friday. 39% of shoppers will be making purchases on Cyber Monday. 

Who knows what the pilgrims would have to say about what has become of their day of reverent gratitude and feasting.  Although Americans will still spend much of their Thanksgiving Day feasting, watching football and spending time with family, there is one thing of which you can be sure.  The Thanksgiving holiday also means shopping.  Lots and lots of shopping! 

Happy Black Friday from your friends at Halloween Express! 

Let’s Talk Turkey: Surprising Facts About Thanksgiving

  • November 18, 2014
  • Jenna Maxwell

Thanksgiving. Nestled in all warm and snug between Halloween and Christmas, this food-filled holiday is an All-American tradition.  Seriously, what could be better than a holiday focused on feasting?  Culinary delights aside, the Thanksgiving holiday is rich in history and tradition.  Thanksgiving also has many rather astounding realities that come along with what usually is a great day of food, football and family.  We’ve unearthed some fun facts about Thanksgiving that will make for good dinner conversation as you pass around the turkey, stuffing and mashed potatoes.

Let's Talk Turkey

Turkey: A Thanksgiving Tradition.  Turkey will be the main entrée served to about 88% of Americans on Thanksgiving.  The other 12% of folks will be eating something else--what exactly, we aren’t exactly sure.  Did you know, however that the first Thanksgiving feast probably didn’t even involve turkey at all?  Most likely the menu at this originating feast included lobster, venison, rabbit, chicken, fish, squash, beans, chestnuts and goat cheese.  What--no mashed potatoes?  No sweet potatoes with marshmallows?  No cranberries?  No pumpkin pies???

Eat, Drink and Be Merry, Repeat.  The first Thanksgiving feast lasted for three days straight.  Can you imagine the indigestion?  To make matters even worse, apparently the first Thanksgiving was a “dude’s only” event.  The only known eyewitness to write about the actual Thanksgiving celebration referred to “some 90 men” being in attendance.  Something tells me, however that the pilgrim women were still doing the majority of the cooking! 

Outdoor Dining, Pilgrim Style.  The first Thanksgiving celebration was outdoors.  Having the festivities outside was mostly for practical reasons, as there was certainly no banquet hall down at the local Plymouth Colony that could hold as many people as were in attendance at this event.  By the way, when it came time for the pilgrims to dig into their chow, they did not use forks.  The only available eating utensils at that time were spoons and knives…and of course, the ever present (not to mention, handy) fingers. 

Turkey, Turkey, Turkey.  Over 280 million turkeys will be sold to American’s for the Thanksgiving holiday.  The state of California consumes the largest percentage of these turkeys; take that to mean whatever you want.  Although folks enjoy eating turkey for other holidays such as Easter and Christmas, Thanksgiving is by far the most popular day for consuming this juicy and plump poultry.  The average size bird purchased by American households weighs about 16 pounds.

Don’t Forget the Cranberries!!  Turkey and cranberries go together on Thanksgiving like Batman goes with Robin.  Over 268 million pounds of cranberries will be produced in the U.S. this year, most of these coming out of the states of Wisconsin and Massachusetts.  Lest we forget, our beloved sweet potatoes will be produced to the tune of 2.6 billion pounds this year.

All American Turkey?  Yes, turkeys have found their way onto the very center of most American’s holiday table.  But did you know that if Ben Franklin had his way, the turkey would have also held the honor of being the official bird of the United States instead of the bald eagle?  In a letter that Mr. Franklin penned to his daughter, ol’ Ben extolled the virtues of the turkey and seemed a bit dismayed that the bald eagle had been selected as the official bird instead. 

“For the truth the turkey is in comparison a much more respectable bird, and withal a true native of America…”

Now that's some true turkey trivia to really get you gobbling this Thanksgiving! Happy Thanksgiving from your friends at Halloween Express! 

Veterans Day: Facts and Trivia You Should Know

  • November 10, 2014
  • Jenna Maxwell
Thank a Veteran

Once the world wraps up Halloween it’s usually a quick b-line straight into the holiday season.  But hold on just a second.  There’s an often-overlooked, but very important holiday that is happening mid-November that you really should know about.  We’re talking about, of course, Veterans Day!  You may already know what Veterans Day is, but in case you don’t, we’re here to lay all the basic facts about this great holiday. Here are all the facts about where Veterans Day came from and more importantly, why it’s important to celebrate it.

What is Veterans Day? 

Veterans Day is a State and Federal holiday in the United States. This holiday has been set aside to remember and honor all former and current military personnel that have served at any time in the U.S. military and armed services.  Honored veterans come from all branches of the military including the U.S. Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force and the Coast Guard. 

When is Veterans Day? 

Veterans Day is always on November 11th.  This date has significance because on November 11, 1918 during the 11th hour of the 11th month, WWI officially came to an end.  The ending of WWI inspired  a holiday known as Armistice Day that honored WWI veterans.  Armistice Day eventually expanded in order to honor all Veterans, with the name being changed from Armistice Day to Veterans Day.

How to Celebrate:

  On Veterans Day there are numerous parades, speeches and other festivities held across the country in order to honor our U.S. veterans.  Each year on Veterans Day a special ceremony is held in Arlington cemetery in Virginia in order to remember those veterans who have passed away.  A great way to get into the spirit of this unique and special holiday is to write a note or send a card of appreciation to a veteran. 

Facts About Vets:

•    There are over 24 million veterans living in the U.S. today.
•    400,000 members of the U.S. military died during World War II.
•    There are nearly 2 million veterans in the U.S. that are women.
•    35% of the living veterans in the U.S. today served in the Vietnam War.
•    One-third of the adult homeless population consists of veterans.  Many of these veterans suffer from PTSD or substance abuse issues.
•    Over 9 million veterans in the U.S. today are over the age of 65.
•    Five states have more than one million veterans as part of their population.  These states include California, Florida, Texas, New York and Pennsylvania.

Veterans come from every walk of life.  They are likely amongst your friends, your neighbors, your work associates, and also live throughout your local community.  These brave men and women deserve your vote of gratitude and thanks. Please take a moment to reach out to the veterans in your life and let them know how much you appreciate their brave service. America is the home of free because of the brave.