The holiday season is no joke in the United States. Americans pump over three trillion – that’s correct, with a “t” – dollars into the retail industry during the “most wonderful time of the year.” Traditionally, beginning with Black Friday, the holiday rush can end in January with shoppers feeling drained and spent – literally and figuratively. So how can you survive the holiday shopping season without wearing yourself out to the bone and going totally broke in the process? We’ll show you how in five easy steps.
- Two words: Online shopping – Unless you have a good reason to actually touch the gifts before purchasing (sometimes it’s nice to stroke that scarf or assess the quality of something by its weight), go ahead and utilize the wonders of the World Wide Web to get your gift-giving under control. Most large retailers – including giant Amazon.com – offer multiple Black Friday deals comparable with those you wait several pre-dawn hours in freezing temps to score in “real life.”
- Shop during off-peak hours – Many big box stores are open 24 hours, or at least have later hours than usual during the season. Get up early or stay up late, either way you’ll beat the crowds as well as the headaches.
- Make a plan – This goes without saying (except, well, we’re saying it anyway).
- Have a budget, and a mental or hard copy map of your destinations and stick to them.
- Create a backup plan –just in case the first store is out of your must-have item– and prepare a list of stores that have it to compare prices.
- Get cash out in advance for things like parking and retailers that may not accept credit cards.
- Plan ahead to keep your shopping energy up by packing snacks and a water bottle.
Be courteous – Be kind to other shoppers, drivers and especially the store staff. Believe it or not, the cashier doesn’t have any control over prices, long lines, or stock (or lack thereof). Being impatient about things out of your, and their, control won’t make the holiday any better or your blood pressure any lower. Stay positive, heck, meditate while waiting in long checkout lines if necessary, just try not to lose your cool. Missing out on the very last super-ultra-awesome item is not life or death.
- Take advantage of gift wrapping – It’s not impossible to find retailers who offer this service for free anymore, but you might stumble upon a few specialty stores that do. Most online retailers and many brick-and-mortars will wrap or gift box for you, usually at a cost of between $3 and $6. If you’ve got the extra pennies to have this done, it’s a big time saver – and possibly money saver as well when you avoid those last minute Christmas Eve trips to the drug store for $7/roll wrapping paper and $4 tape.
While stress is difficult to completely avoid during the hustle and bustle of the gift-giving season, it is possible to accomplish your holiday shopping with minimum hassle or chaos.