Mike Hagan: Shopping tip for X-mas Scrooges | AspenTimes.com

Mike Hagan: Shopping tip for X-mas Scrooges

I don’t know if it’s simply something that comes with age or whether I’m just a grump this time of year.

It’s easy to love everything about Christmas when you’re young. You start counting down the days about the time you’ve finished off your Halloween candy. There’s the anticipation of all the great toys in the stocking and under the tree; the chance to see Grandma and Grandpa and other family members you love; school’s out for two weeks; and there’s all the cookie baking, parties and just generally fun stuff that the Christmas season generates.

And the best part is that you simply get to enjoy it all without having to squeeze shopping time into your extremely hectic schedule, and you don’t have to drain your savings account in order to make sure all your friends and family enjoy a nice Christmas. Sure, you might scribble a few drawings, or some other fun art projects, to give away as presents, but there’s no pressure. You just kick back and wait for the goods to be delivered.

That’s what likely leads to my “Scrooginess” every holiday season. Once the big day finally arrives, I feel like a kid again. I love the presents and food just like everyone else, I enjoy others’ enjoyment as they open up the presents that I’ve bought for them, and having my own child lets me see Christmas through her eyes, with all the beautiful and wondrous mystique about this holiday that makes it special.

But pretty much through Dec. 24 I’m not a lot of fun to be around. Yes, it’s my own fault. I’ve been in the newspaper business for 16 years, so I know damn well that the couple of weeks leading up to Christmas are going to be two of the busiest weeks of the year.

So do I get out early in December and get my shopping done? Never. It’s always a last-minute scramble with the mind-numbing hordes at Wal-Mart, trying to get it all in one trip without completely losing my mind.

Stupid? Yes. Efficient? Never. And the end result … well, enough about my Scrooge side.

This year I tackled things a bit differently. No, I didn’t get an early start and spent all weekend on a mad rampage to check off everything on the list. And I’ve still got a ways to go. Can you say, STRESSED!?

Anyway, rather than making my annual trek downvalley to Wal-Mart, I decided to stay right here at home. Maybe it was the fact that I just couldn’t stomach the idea of another Wal-Mart crunch. But I think it’s more like guilt finally got the best of me.

As editor of The Aspen Times, I’ve overseen the writing of countless stories about our local businesses struggling. And yet I always head downvalley when I need to do some serious shopping. That just never feels right, so this year I was determined to keep my dollars in my community.

And it really felt good. Instead of being trapped inside a human beehive, I got to stroll from store to store throughout the weekend. It was busy, but it was refreshing. The people shopping were mostly in a good mood. The store owners and clerks, though obviously stressed, were helpful and happy and helped me find what I needed. If they didn’t have it, they’d go the extra step and suggest other stores in town that might be able to help out.

In the end, will it have cost me more time and money than checking off the list at a major national chain store? Probably a little bit. But it somehow feels worth it. It’s made Christmas a little more special this year, and I feel a little less like Scrooge. And I know I’ve done my small part to help boost the local economy.

So I would suggest everyone give it a try. Not only does it greatly improve your Christmas spirit, it forces you to spend some time getting to know your friends and neighbors a little better. And that, really, is what this season is supposed to be all about.

[Mike Hagan is editor in chief of The Aspen Times. His column appears every other Tuesday]

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