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Holiday Shopping Heats Up

No one needs a reminder that the holiday season is upon us -- and seemed to arrive sooner than ever. Anyone who bore witness to jack-o'-lanterns being swept out of stores by Christmas trees can attest to that.

And whether you celebrate Chanukah, Christmas, Kwanza, New Year's Eve and Day, or a combination of holidays, most people spend extra money this time of year, much of it on gifts and entertainment. So the turkey leftovers are gone and it's time to get going. Don't know where or how to start your shopping? Education World offers some advice on shopping for this year's hot gifts, buying gifts for educators, and movies to put you in the holiday mood, or just help you unwind.


Indeed, the shopping season did get off to an earlier start than usual this year. Jittery retailers, well aware of the slump in housing prices, the higher cost of gasoline, and rising consumer debt, started rolling out the sales a few days after Halloween. Many feared that consumers would be cutting back on holiday spending.

"They [retailers] have been trying to capture consumer dollars as soon as they can," said Ken Perkins, president of Retail Metrics, LLC, a research firm. "Retailers also are not carrying as much inventory."

But at least one survey shows that when it comes to the holidays, the public still is willing to spend. The 2011 Consumer Electronics Association survey indicated that consumers planned to spend an average of $769 this year on holiday gifts, up 3 percent from last year.


As has been the case for the past several holiday seasons, if it is powered by electricity and/or is digital, it is near the top of holiday wish lists and gift-buying lists, reported the Consumer Electronics Association in 2011.



Almost 90 percent of movie fans watch holiday films to ring in the season and help them get in the holiday mood, according to a September 2006 survey by Blockbuster, Inc. More than 70 percent of respondents said they watch a particular movie as a part of their holiday tradition.

According to the Blockbuster survey, these are the top all-time favorite holiday films:

  • It's a Wonderful Life (1946)
  • A Christmas Story (1983)
  • Miracle On 34th Street (1947)
  • National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation (1989)
  • Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964)
  • White Christmas (1954)
  • Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966)
  • Home Alone (1990)
  • Polar Express (2004)
  • A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965)
  • Frosty the Snowman (1969)
  • The Santa Clause (1994)

"The survey results were not surprising to the CEA. Our products have so many different applications -- they educate, communicate, and inform," said CEA spokeswoman Jennifer Pareti. "And new devices come out every year. There are new products every year that change the way we are entertained and informed."

On the list of top five gifts desired by adults, tablet and notebook/laptop computers finished before peace and happiness.

On the list of electronics must-haves, e-readers finished right behind tablets and laptops.

School administrators may also be putting high-tech devices on their wish lists. See Education World's Principals Who Can't Live Without Technology for details.


Also popular gifts this holiday season are books and music, both of which allow for personal gift-giving without blowing the budget, according to Ann Binkley, spokeswoman for Borders.

These are always known as great holiday gifts, Binkley told Education World. People think of the price, and it is a very personal gift. If you know someone has a favorite author and that author has a new book coming out, you get it for them. The same can be said for music.

When it comes to books, shoppers always have good choices, whether they are buying for mystery or history buffs. "There are great collections out there," Binkley said. "And we all know teachers like reading and the arts -- gift cards also are good gifts for teachers."

As for the youngsters on your list, the toy recalls make books an even more appealing gift for children, she said. Some children's books are good choices for adults as well.

"I think there is always a child inside of us, and there is nothing wrong with reading Alice in Wonderland or the Wizard of Oz. You can always give the gift of a classic," added Binkley.


It's also gift-buying season for teachers, and many parents worry about spending too much or too little, sometimes not realizing that teachers like the same things as regular people.

So rather than wrapping up the usual teacher mugs, soaps, stationery, powder, or chocolate, parents might want to consider gift cards, a handmade gift from their child, or a present for the classroom.

While the National Education Association (NEA) does not have an official policy on giving teachers gifts, the organization does offer these tips:

Check the school policy. Some district policies discourage buying gifts for teachers to prevent feelings of inequity or concerns about favoritism. In such cases, consider making something. Bake cookies or cupcakes or send a handwritten note. A note from a parent saying "My child has never been so excited about science before, and I can't thank you enough" is a gift that any teacher will treasure, says NEA President Reg Weaver, a veteran classroom teacher of more than 30 years, who still keeps copies of some of the notes parents and kids wrote to him.

Don't break the bank. Remember that giving a present is optional. Teachers appreciate gifts, but they do not expect them. If you choose to buy a gift, keep it simple -- extravagant gifts are unnecessary.

Organize a class gift. Any parent can take the initiative and collect money based on each family's ability to pay. If some can give $5, and others can give $20, that's fine. Scrapbooks and photo albums are also popular gifts a class can give to a teacher -- a gift's value grows when the whole class contributes.

Buy a gift certificate. Sometimes it's nice to buy something just for the teacher, rather than classroom supplies and materials. Treat your child's teacher to a night at the movies, a trip to a favorite bookstore, or a visit to the spa. Indulge an interest or just plain indulge!

Bag the apples. It's guaranteed that every teacher has accumulated a multitude of items -- from soaps and socks to mugs and oven mitts -- engraved with every kind of apple imaginable. Try a unique spin on an apple for the teacher theme: a bottle of sparkling cider.

Give the gift of time. Give the teacher a book of coupons that can be redeemed for volunteer hours in the classroom. You don't have to spend any money to find that perfect gift for a teacher. Your child's class could benefit from your time and attention more than anything.


If you need a break from shopping, or a diversion to keep you from getting started, think about watching a movie. Many people usually have some time off over the Christmas and New Year's periods and want to catch up on movies they haven't seen.

If you want to read some opinions of a movie before watching it, visit The Internet Movie Database for reviews of hundreds of thousands of films.

Need a classroom fix during your vacation? Or want to remind yourself that things could be worse? Check out Education World's Top Ten Movies Featuring Educators.


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Updated 11/15/2011