Mall Madness

Unfortunately, I’m not talking about the epic circa-1996 (or 1989, depending on which version we’re talking about) board game.


No, I’m talking about the intense, mind-blowing madness that is Tysons Corner during the month of December. Steve and I (we are friends now — hooray for progress!) were set on braving the crowds last night to do some Christmas shopping.

Santa's Closed

Well, we would have braved the crowds, that is, had there been any. I honestly was predicting mayhem and madness, but it turns out even in December the mall is pretty dead at 8:30 on a Monday night. In fact, the only thing that was actually crazy were the deals! (Ba-doom ching!)

Unfortunately, the deals weren’t crazy enough to get me an actual puppy. Stupid fine print.

See, when our family does Christmas, we do it BIG, and I’m trying not to let my financial situation put a damper on things. Speak of the debt thing, actually, I have an update on that front: As of last week, I have officially paid off my credit card debt! Daxter’s hospital visit threw an unfortunate wrench in my debt-clearing goals (to have both my credit cards paid off and my dad paid back by the end of the year). Thanks to my very patient and generous Papa, however, I’ve at least got those little plastic temptresses under control!


Ne’er shall I carry a balance again! (Er, I hope.)

Right, so… what was I talking about again? Oh right, spending more money. Ha! I mean… it is still Christmas, you know. I’m trying to be very conscious of my budget, while still coming up with fun, personal gifts. So I’ve been deal-shopping, sales-shopping, and perusing Pinterest for ideas. I think that I’ve been doing a pretty good job so far!

Christmas Shopping

And okay, I’ll admit right here and now that I wasn’t able to refrain COMPLETELY from buying some things for myself. Fact: wearing a too-big coat makes you look too big too (say that 5x fast!), and feeling frumpalicious during cookie season is not so good for the self-esteem. Also fact: coats are crazy on sale at Old Navy right now! I did, however, abstain from some of the more ridiculous awesome stuff I wanted.

Herro Tree!
Be proud of me for walking away from this. It was rough.

So all in all, it was a successful shopping trip! Also, a successful continuation of my Instagram self-tutelage, as you can see. I still have three family members left to get gifts for (two human, one canine) but I’m starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel!

What’s your holiday shopping strategy? Are you an early bird, with your presents all wrapped up by December 1st? Or a last-minute gifter? An online-shopper or an in-store bargain hunter? Last year, I had almost 100% of my Christmas shopping done by Cyber Monday, all thanks to Amazon. This year, I’m running on a much later schedule, with a few gifts that I’ve purchased online but I’ve had to do a lot of shopping in-person to get ideas! Oogh, the stress!


  1. In year’s past, we’ve handmade all of our gifts. Starting sometime in July or August and normally only finishing up RIGHT before Christmas (we have lots of family). But this year, we bought everything through Amazon a few days before Thanksgiving (and through Swagbucks it was free!). My family also decided that adults would not be doing gifts, which cut back on at least 10 gifts we’d have to find. Much easier shopping season. 🙂

    • I need to get back into using Swagbucks. I had it set up as my default browser at my last job and got a few points that way. I just never really the full scope of rewards, I guess. Teach me, Obi Wan?

  2. Katesays:

    If you don’t have an amazon wish list then you get whatever my little heart thinks you need to have. 🙂

  3. I started my Christmas shopping back in early November when I was home sick with a nasty cold. Amazon, baby! I’ve gotten a lot of gifts online (mainly when there’s free shipping and I can use Ebates to get a few cents/dollars back). But, I’ve also gotten a good number in stores. Just picked up a couple outfits at Target for my nieces (ADORABLE) yesterday and finished up by making some pumpkin granola for my dad. Florida packages are out the door this morning! Just a few more DIY gifts and I’ll be set by the end of the week 🙂 And, of course, sending out Christmas cards….and getting them from unexpected people, which prompts me to send out another round of cards 🙂

    I <3 Amazon wish lists…you can even add non-Amazon things! But, I had to get creative for a couple people who won't give up a list!

    Glad you got most of your shopping outta the way before the real rush!

    • I am lucky in that I at least still have my whole family around for Christmas still (I am going to fall apart when the day comes when we can’t all do Christmas together, haha) so I don’t have to deal with the mailing of packages. I need to check out Ebates, I hear good things about it!

  4. Congrats on getting your credit card debt gone. That’s HUGE!

  5. Sarah S.says:

    I like to have all mine done by the week before Christmas that way I can spend that last week wrapping and enjoying the season. I really admire people that get it done early, that’s just not me!

  6. I try to do absolutely all of my shopping online. I really hate the parking lot situations at most of our local malls right now – even just the shopping centers are so crazy! I wish I were finished though. Last year I was done before Thanksgiving and it was amazing but not so this year. I’m sadly going to have to brave the malls to get the rest of my gifts and I keep putting it off. Maybe I’ll take your hint and go later in the evening.

    Congratulations on overcoming your credit card debt!! That’s such a good feeling, isn’t it?

  7. Jen Robinsonsays:

    Yay congrats on the credit cards! Also- i totally wanted that mall madness game like whoa when i was little!

  8. I like to have them bought and wrapped around a week before, just so I can look at them under the tree. But it never really works out that way.

    I’ve also found that when I finish early, I am never really “finished” anyway. I keep buying until December 24th.

    • I’m the same way! I always find a little something here or something there that I want to get for someone still… which probably has been a major contributing factor to our mega Christmases, hahaha.

  9. For the past two years, the hubs and I have tried our hand at Black Friday shopping. The first year we went was successful only because we scored ourselves the best deals of all (the entire Lord of the Rings trilog for just $6? YES, PLEASE!). Unless we had specific items to get for people, Black Friday shopping isn’t really all that great for Christmas shopping. But I like to get it done as early as possible because like some people already mentioned, it’s nice to have all of the gifts wrapped and under the tree for longer than just a few days. I’m totally into wrapping paper in a creepy way … Amazon is a god-send, too!

    • Whaaaaat, $6!? Dang. I mean, they definitely say there’s a reason why Black Friday madness exists — the deals must be worth all that crazy! I know what you mean about how unless you’ve identified something specific to get for someone, it’s hard to do it that way. I find it’s the same way with online shopping for me. It’s much easier for me to browse and get ideas in-store for some reason.

  10. I definitely try to spread out the holiday spending so it doesn’t hurt so much all at once! I also usually buy stuff online because a lot of stores I shop at allow me to get 5-20% cashback with my Discover Card if I buy through their websites…definitely worth it to get the extra money back!!!!

    • Guff, I always forget about that Discover perk. I never go through the website to do my online shopping. I need to!!

  11. I have no strategy for holiday shopping. Seriously- I am the WORST. I am the person at the mall on Christmas eve! I have only bought like two things so far, and they were online. I need to get my sh*t together! I’m having a hard time this year coming up with ideas for people, but am running out of time. I want to do some kind of DIY thing for my co-workers and will probably once again use Whole Foods “Edible gifts” ideas and tags for inspiration. 🙂

  12. I’m a last minute shopper, I usually head out on Christmas Eve to pick up stocking stuffers, I love it though! The lines, the people, the madness, it makes it all fun 🙂 We are taking our kids to see santa tonight and then the husband will take the kiddies home so I can do some more shopping with my mom.

  13. Karensays:

    I was at Towson mall last night and really surprised that it was so sane. (We met Santa BTW. Not the mall Santa. THE Santa. From the Macy Parade. SANTA!)

    Did I mention I was there to meet Santa? Yeah. I feel like we can stop everything right now because I met the man. Santa.

    Ok anyway.

    I am making more stuff every year. Baking and crafting. Partly to save money and partly because I just love making stuff. As for actual purchases? I have a list in my head which will be completed sometime before December 25. Hopefully.


      • Karensays:

        Oh my god what is that from! This is going to haunt me all day! Or at least for the 30 seconds until I go to Google.

        • Why, Elf, of course!

          “Buddy the Elf, what’s your favorite color?” 😀

        • Karensays:


          Yes I am a total Buddy the Elf today. Just without the Spaghetti and Fruit Loops.

          • I know this is going to make me sound crazy, but part of me always thinks that spaghetti with maple syrup would taste really good!

  14. Oh my!! That mall is dead. BUT YAY on paying off your debt!! I have only one more to completely pay off too! go us!

  15. I totally broke down and bought a new coat for the same reasons as you. The coat was big last year and this year it was crazy huge. I went from a 2X to a medium. Yup I put off buying a coat that long:)

  16. Woo hoo on the credit card. And woo hoo on the Hello Kitty ornament. No tree is complete without one! 🙂 Have a wonderful week Gretchen.

  17. Puppy!

    I haven’t gotten nearly all of my christmas shopping done yet. And given a small financial crunch (haha… understatement of the YEAR..) I don’t know if I will manage to get it all done actually BY Christmas. Yay for being the late Christmas-giver…..

  18. I love the throwback to Mall Madness – a game I begged for but was denied time and time again.

    I end up doing most of it online but this is the time of year where I can actually be tolerable of crowds. I love the hustle and bustle of people and their gift giving.

    Also – glad to hear the latest on your mall buddy. I hope things keep heading in a positive direction for you Gretchen!

    Lastly – congrats on paying down that CC debt – definitely something to be proud of!

  19. I don’t get how you guys ( everyone that celebrates xmas) does it! Everyone in my family would be getting homemade desserts.
    P.s I am happy you and Steve are friends, it can work (the friends with the ex part)

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