Thursday, December 10, 2009

Surviving Shopping for Santa

Okay, so I'm pretty much done with my Christmas Shopping this year. I may have a few more presents to get, but those are just extras, and maybe some to donate. I went out last Saturday with the intent of finishing, and that is what I did. I left my house around 10 AM, went to 6 different stores (Walgreens, Peebles, Pattycakes, Toys R Us, Jc Penny, and Rite Aid), and was home around 4:30. I saved roughly 40% average on all my purchases, but that's another blog altogether. What I want to do is share some tricks that helped me finish early this year (rather than running around 2 days before Christmas, like in years past) and how to avoid crowds and traffic when you are out on a high volume shopping day.
First, start shopping in the early fall. All the summer stuff will be getting marked down 75% or more. I've gotten $20 purses for $3 this way. When you find a really good deal, buy more than one. Even if you're not quite sure yet who you're buying it for, you'll figure it out. And if you end up with one or two extras, you either have 2 extras for yourself, or you can be the epitome of true holiday spirit and donate the extras to a shelter for homeless people, battered women, a food bank (yes they give out personal items too, though I'm not sure about purses...) whatever your charity of choice.
Next, if you are planning a big shopping day, like I did, then you need to start thinking about it in advance. I'd say a week or more, depending on your financial situation. You want to shop with cash. This will help you stick to a budget. So, if you won't have the kind of cash you need on hand, then you will need to work it into your budget as soon as possible. Some people set aside money every month for gifts that they know they will have to buy.
Once you know how much you have to spend, get out your notebook, pen, sale ads, and coupons. Also, have your Gift List handy. Start your search. Look through the sale ads and cross check these with your coupons. Also, be looking at your Gift List that way you know what you are looking for. I was also shopping for household essentials when I went out, and by doing all this shopping together, I saved even more money (again, an explanation will come on this later).
When you have determined what you want to buy at which store, make a master list, with the stores and the shopping list for each one, all together (mine ended up being about 2 pages...that is with a bunch of cross outs, stores I skipped, and spaces between the stores). I did this randomly and numbered mine so I knew the order of the stores I was going to. I started with the closest one to my house, moved in a circular direction through the stores I wanted to go to, and ended up at a store with an easy and quick route home, but on a different side of town.
The key to moving quickly through crowded stores and holiday traffic is knowing your town. I took every back road and neighborhood shortcut that I could. Instead of sitting in bumper to bumper traffic and getting into a 15 car turn line to go to Toys R Us, I took the back way and was there in 3 minutes. For navigating through crowded stores, I think the only thing you can do is hope for good timing (lucky for me, it was lunch time when I got there). Toys R Us was extremely crowded, but somehow I got in, got what I wanted (which was the last one on the shelf), and got out in 15 minutes. There was no fighting, no pushing, and very few long lines. Maybe I was just lucky. Also, 2 very nice gentlemen helped me put my item ito my cart after I almost dropped it on my foot. Jc Penny was crowded, and ended up not having what I wanted, but the sales people were pretty helpful. They could not fulfill the offer on my coupon, and really didn't offer any consolation to me. But when I was paying, I talked my way into an extra % off of some of the items I was getting. So, if you go to a store, and they can't honor a store coupon, you may be able to talk your way into an extra discount in exchange.
So, I wish you luck in your holiday shopping this year. May you find everything you are looking for, may it be on sale, and may you enjoy the love and laughter that comes with being around so much love this holiday season. Merry Christmas, Happy Hanuka, Happy Kwanzaa, Happy Solstice...that's about all I know, but I know there's more. Whatever you are celebrating, may you be surrounded by love and happiness and may you and yours be safe.
Peace and Love,
from the swamp lands :)