Shopping is a sin

Does your annual Christmas experience include wandering aimlessly around department stores, braving car park chaos and general shopping doldrums? Sit back, relax and get inspired, as PC World makes this silly season the smoothest yet.

I really don't enjoy shopping any more. Not for myself, and not for friends, and certainly not for my family. Most people assume women are born to shop, but something has happened in the last few years to make it painful. Finally I know how most guys feel when their partner decides that a trip to the local Westfield is in order on the weekend.

Choosing gifts is never easy and I admit I don't always know what to buy, and I often end up canvassing the whole PC World team for input on the perfect pressie. But even knowing what you want to shell out the big bucks on doesn't end the pain. Try tracking down the gifts.

You can head out the door with a gift list in hand, pound the pavement and come up empty-handed. And retailers have themselves to blame. One gift buying expedition went terribly awry. I had ideas, I had a budget, I had credit cards, but when I went to a major shopping strip on a late night shopping evening after work, half the shops had closed by 5 p.m. I won't be returning to this shopping strip for my Christmas expedition. It isn't just the small "boutique" shops that are losing business.

Even major department stores, which offer gift lists compiled by the present receivers for would-be present buyers (for those major life experiences such as 21st birthdays, weddings, a new baby in the family), often don't have the goods in stock when you rock up to pick a pressie. There is often the excuse - the selected gift is no longer available.

To top it off, by the time you get some paper, a card, wrap and deliver the gift, you only barely have five minutes to enjoy the company of the person the gift is intended for. Do the maths, and consider how long you spend selecting gifts. And if shopping is your idea of hell, then the less time in hell the better, I say!

You have a few options. Stop giving gifts or killing yourself looking for the perfect gift. Or start looking elsewhere!

If you find yourself rushed off your feet this silly season, between the company drinks afternoon and the catch-up beers with mates (not to mention all the work you have to finish before the Christmas shutdown), don't add trawling through the shops to spy empty shelves to your crowded to-do list.

This season, save yourself the heartache and start shopping online. Last Christmas, you may have been tempted to go online to shop when you wanted, where you wanted, but perhaps you were undecided as to whether you may have ended up empty-handed on the day. So what has changed? Many e-tailers had a make or break season, as some shopping sites rose to the challenge, and others, well, didn't. This year, following the shakedown and the hard lessons learned, e-tailers are ready to provide your pressies on time online - or else they won't be around for any New Year's business resolutions. Plus, there are more places to e-shop, and plenty of quick and dirty gift ideas. And if you call Australia home, but half your family doesn't, online may be the only way to make sure you are still in the will.

Here at PC World we figured no one has the time to survive the shopping spree - online or otherwise - without some tips, tricks and sensational gift ideas.

This month we perused some of the hot gift sites to see if they really can deliver on the promise to help you out of the last-minute gift quandary with tips on what to look for in your favourite e-tailer. While online isn't always a last-minute lifeline, you can avoid the traffic, the queues, the people and the pain of not finding what you want, when you want it. Plus, we provide some really last-minute short cuts.

And if you are looking for some unique pressies for the geek in your life, check out our hottest tech toys gift guide, with categories to suit a variety of budgets: this is a wish list designed to inspire. Which leaves more time for those beers . . . cheers!

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Amanda Conroy

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