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Technology Streamlines Holiday Shopping

Buying Christmas gifts once sapped all my strength and sanity but online shopping is faster and easier.

Holiday shopping is far from one of my favorite things to do. I thoroughly enjoy the holidays – especially since I’ve become a parent – but I hate crowds. I am not the most functional when I’m distracted, even less so when I get frustrated. I’m also not very comfortable making large purchases, whether they are expensive items or just a bunch of random moderately-priced ones.

With that said, I have been thinking a lot lately about how good we parents have it these days. Sure times are tough. We’re busier than we’ve ever been and we have to work even harder for the money we do make. Even still, it can’t be anywhere near as tough as it was for our folks.

When our parents ventured out into the stores and malls to fight the crowds to get their hands on even a few select gifts it was because they had no other choice. They didn’t have the luxury of making purchases online. Calling ahead to check the stock of an item or having one store inquire with another one wasn’t an option.

And what if dad got out on the road and forgot what size little Joey’s jeans were supposed to be? He couldn’t pull out his cell phone and quickly call mom to get the specs. No, he had to turn around and go back home. If it was mom who'd forgotten the name of the sleek new doll all the girls wanted, there was no fancy Android phone in her purse she could dial up the web on.

And how about family gift exchanges? These things have been nothing but headaches for everyone involved since the beginning of time. Most participants to be present for a drawing of names to have any chance at success. Even then, names were either lost, forgotten or misplaced in transit from one family member to another.

Now we have elfster. If you’ve never heard of this phenomenon do not despair. Neither had I up until about a month ago. It’s actually one of the greatest technological advancements ever achieved. It’s a website (and there may be others that provide similar services) that has the potential to completely take the hassle out of holiday gift exchanges.

I use the qualification of “potential” because, as we all know, user errors are always a possibility. For the most part, though, it’s quite amazing. It’s a free online service that allows users to put together a gift exchange, and the site coordinates the whole thing. Well, the users actually coordinate it, I suppose, but the website basically does all the work for you.

It’s simple, and it takes out all the guesswork -– not to mention the headache -- of having to track the holiday gift file in our short-term memories. Our parents never had anything like this. That’s probably why so many neckties, pairs of socks and holiday hand towels exchanged hands back then: They were simply safe assumptions.

Money seems to have been almost entirely eliminated from the equation. The giving of it, that is. I think my grandfather is the only person left on earth who still hands it out for the holidays. Now we have gift cards in just about denomination and incarnation imaginable, at every corner drug store or grocery store.

My kids will be the first generation in my family to grow up not knowing what it’s like to get through the holidays without these. I’ve had to do my share of holiday shopping without some of them and I’m sure most parents these days have also.

In many ways these advances in technology actually make the holidays easier to enjoy. Sure, there is an element of time-management that still remains. The point is that when properly considered and implemented, technology can work to our advantage, saving time and stress.

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