By Jillian Stanphill, Guest Writer

Anxiety, stress and prices are all on the rise as consumers and retailers battle to get the best deals and the most benefit.

It’s that time of year again, where Thanksgiving has passed along with the craze of Black Friday, Super Saturday and Cyber Monday. This is the home stretch to the holidays with Christmas and Thanksgiving separated by a mere 28 days.

As the full weight of the holiday season begins to sink in, consumers must ask themselves who they are buying gifts for, where they are getting gifts and how they plan to pay for them. After these questions are all answered, written on a list and checked twice, they must address the choice of what type of gift and where to buy it.

According to the National Retail Federation (NRF), 43 percent of shoppers said they think they will shop online and 38 percent said they plan to use a catalog. The NRF also predicted that year holiday spending will increase 3.9 percent more than last year.

An increase in sales during the holiday season is a lot more influential than one might think — 2012 holiday sales accounted for about 19.3 percent of the annual sales of many businesses.

Typical gifts include items such as clothes, electronics and entertainment. Smartphones, tablets and laptops are ever-growing in popularity. At the same time, books and movies are easy gifts for a picky person, and most people always desire clothes.

Of course, for the completely un-shoppable few, gift cards are a great option. Based on research conducted by Krystina Gustafson, a content editor for the satellite business news channel CNBC, more than 80 percent of American holiday shoppers said they plan on buying at least one gift card this year.

In contrast to traditional gifts, a growing category for gift-giving has been focused on sustainability. Charities choose the holidays to focus on getting donations for their causes, not only because of the generous spirit, but also because a donation can offer a gift that is worth more than an object.

With a growing number of non-profits and charities, consumers can pick a cause that is meaningful to the individual receiving it. Causes include anything from purchasing an animal for a rural family to help support them throughout the year to donating money to build wells for fresh water in Nicaragua.

On the Pacific Lutheran University campus, students in marketing classes have been doing just that — there is a fundraiser going on right now for Nicaraguan wells. To donate to this particular fundraiser, visit, or drop cash into the cans at the Old Main Market.

Giving gifts such as these not only provide a warm and fuzzy feeling to the recipient as well as the giver, they also limit the carbon footprint of general gift-giving. Donations eliminate the lengthy process of gift giving, which probably includes driving to a store to pick out a gift that may have been shipped across the nation or the globe, wrapping it up and then shipping it off again.

Another way to be environmentally conscious this season is to give the gift of an event. Plays, sporting events and concerts all provide a wonderful experience that can be shared, remembered and retold time and time again. Events also use far fewer resources, unlike produced gifts, which require substantial resources to be made.

As the sleigh bells begin ringing and the hopes for snow grow stronger, remember that you, as a consumer, can’t be pigeonholed by the market in which you buy or the gifts you choose to purchase. ◼︎

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