I hate shopping. I hate it any time of year, but I especially hate it at Christmas. The stores are crowded, everyone’s in a frenzy, parking’s a hassle, and it’s hard to find anything. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have to shop.
To save time and my sanity, I came up with a few Christmas shopping strategies. I started with the Christmas shopping list I posted the other day. Then I branched out to deadlines and strategic shopping. I now have 12 Christmas shopping tips
Strategy 1: Finish shopping by mid-December.
Each year, I set a hard deadline when all my shopping must be done. I try to make it the second Sunday of the month. Unfortunately, December 1st fell on a Saturday this year, and December 9 is a little too early. I’ll be mostly done, but I’ll probably have a couple gift cards left to pick up. My deadline for this year is December 16. Next year it will be December 14.
Strategy 2: Shop on weekdays.
When you’re shopping early in the season, the stores are relatively uncrowded after work on a weekday or during lunch. You can hit a few stores in the mall without spending hours and hours.
Strategy 3: Shop with a list.
Always rely on your Christmas shopping list to stay on track. Don’t be tempted to add little things or veer from your pre-determined gift decisions by all the pretty, sparkly things you’ll see.
Strategy 4: Shop online.
There are a couple online stores where I regularly Christmas shop. If I can order three to four gifts from them in one shot, it seriously cuts down on my shopping time. The gifts are delivered to my office. All I have to do is take them home to wrap them. As an added bonus, I can reuse the shipping boxes to mail gifts to relatives.
Strategy 5: Use PriceProtectr.com:
I just learned about this fantastic site, and already it’s saved me a dollar. Here’s what you do: shop at one of the 70 stores covered by site. Make your purchases as usual. Copy and paste the URL into the PriceProtectr.com box along with your email address. They email you if the price falls within the stated price protection period and tell you how to request your refund.
Strategy 6: Shop the online stores first.
Before you head to the store, make the sure the store carries the item you want. With some stores, you can actually check their stock on the website. If you’re feeling brave, you can call ahead and ask to have it held, but I usually get aggravated by this because they either don’t answer the phone or leave me on hold forever.
Strategy 7: Choose one shopping center to visit.
Once I’ve decided what to get people, I look for as many gifts as possible online. I then figure out which stores carry the remaining items. Finally I figure out which local shopping center has most of those stores and go there to get the rest of the gifts.
Strategy 8: Order gift cards online.
Most sites will ship gift cards for free or for $1. If they charge more than that, I won’t buy the card from them or I make sure that store is at the shopping center I plan to visit. I much prefer to buy the gift cards online though. I hate waiting in a long line to get a gift card.
Strategy 9: Have gifts shipped directly to relatives.
Although you have to pay for wrapping, free shipping will often make up for that. Gift baskets are great for clients and distant family members. Amazon often has free shipping on toys, so you can have those shipped directly, too.
Strategy 10: Ask kids what they want.
If you have to buy gifts for nieces, nephews, or cousins, email their parents in mid-November to ask what the kids want. This way you know exactly what to get and can start planning where to buy it sooner.
Strategy 11: Shop during off-hours.
If you have to go to a store like Home Depot or Toys R Us, go late in the evening, around 9 or 10 PM. The place will be deserted. Many malls are open late during this time a year, so that’s another great time to go.
Strategy 12: Make shopping a date.
My husband hates to shop as much as I do, but he also wants to pick out some gifts himself, so we make a date out of it. We pick one Saturday to go to a nearby shopping center. We try to get there by six to get his shopping done. Then we put our names in at a restaurant (sometimes we do this first if the restaurant is really popular and we know there will be a long wait) and look at the lights or just meander while we wait. Finally, we cap it off with a movie. Even though it’s shopping, the evening is less stressful because we made a whole night of it.
All these strategies combined make for very merry Christmas shopping. You won’t be babbling incoherently come Christmas morning, and you can impress everyone with how early you finished.