Your Guide to Surviving Holiday Shopping

Your Guide to Surviving Holiday Shopping

Photo Credit: JasonBatterham /

What You Need to Know Before Braving the Crowds

It’s that time of year again. The holidays are upon us and with them come the perils of holiday shopping. Even if you’ve made your list and checked it twice, chances are your strategies for getting that perfect gift could use a little tweaking.

Navigating the holiday sales can be daunting, but all that’s needed is a little pre-planning and some organizational skills. After your turkey coma has finally lifted and you’re ready to tackle your list, keep this handy guide close by to survive your holiday shopping experience whether you brave the crowds or stalk deals online.

Making a List and Checking It Twice

First, you need to know who you’re buying for. Make a list of everyone you intend on giving something to this year, even if it’s just a card. You can go back and prioritize who is getting a gift and who you are sending cards to.

If you already have a gift idea for a person, make a note of it under their name along with the price. It might be a good idea to jot this list down on your phone so it’s always with you. That way, when you have a gift idea, you can add it next to that person’s name on your list.

It’s also important to figure out how much you’ll spend on each person. Based on the ideas you’ve jotted down, create a budget for the people on your list. If it’s not feasible, go back and adjust. We all have the tendency towards generosity during the holidays, but presents are only part of what makes this season special. There’s no need to break the bank on gifts, especially if you are saving up for something or don’t have a lot of extra cash.

Research, Research, Research

Researching and comparing prices for items you’re considering for gifts will also help you make frugal decisions. Don’t just purchase something at the first place you see it — there’s an app for that!

ShopSavvy and PriceGrabber are just a couple apps that have price comparison features to help you get the best deal on an item. Some apps even offer barcode scanning in stores, which allows you to compare that price with prices online.

Also look for sales, coupons, discount codes and rebates for items on your list. Most stores offer e-newsletters where they announce such things, but there are also websites specifically devoted to finding good deals. Try searching RetailMeNot or SlickDeals before you make a purchase.

Online May Be the Way to Go

If you’re already doing all your gift research online, it’s not a bad idea to just make the purchase online as well. There are lots of benefits to online shopping, namely avoiding the hordes at the mall.

Many stores offer ship-to-store options for no extra charge, which will allow you to just pick up an item without waiting in line. If you can’t stand the thought of braving the cold or leaving the comfort of your pajamas, you may want to wait until Dec. 18 to make online purchases — it’s officially Free Shipping Day, with about 500 major retailers participating every year.

Preparing to Face the Crowds

There will be some gifts that inevitably require a trip to the mall. In that case, prepare for the experience like you would a hike or other outdoor excursion.

Wear comfortable shoes since you’ll be doing a lot of walking. Bring a few snacks high in protein and low in sugar to avoid an energy crash during your trip. Remember to also stay hydrated, so bring a bottle of water along too.

Try to plan out your mall shopping so it can be done all at once, and get there early! Parking will likely be a madhouse regardless, but an early arrival will enhance your chances of finding a parking spot. It might also help to go with a friend or family member so you can keep each other entertained as you wait in line or battle with other shoppers over merchandise.

Other Tips

The holidays are also a great excuse to shop locally. Small businesses can sometimes be overlooked in the madness of scoring a cheap flat screen or other piece of technology.

Smaller stores mean smaller crowds and no door buster trampling incidents either. Wherever you decide to shop, make sure you’re aware of their return and exchange policy and snag a gift receipt if one is available.

Try your best to have patience with sales employees and other shoppers. We all get stressed out trying to find that perfect something or looking for the best deal. The employees are not your enemy; they’re trained to help you find what you’re looking for.

They are the ones who have to spend up to eight hours a day dealing with hangry customers and screaming children. Chances are they just want someone to be nice to them or to acknowledge their humanity during this stressful season.

So forgive their snappiness and kill them with kindness. It will make you both feel better and will ensure you make Santa’s nice list this year.