Traveling, cooking large meals, planning and surviving holiday office parties and managing relatives – the holidays are stressful. Add in the time and money demands of holiday shopping, and you may be tempted to keep a therapist on speed dial.
While you may not be able to avoid difficult relatives or the annual end-of-year trip to a client you’d rather not see, it is possible to reduce holiday shopping stress.
“In my opinion, the best deals are post-Black Friday,” said Peggy Blum, a former retail trends forecaster, past Seventeen Magazine editor, and current lead instructor for the Fashion Retail & Management program at The Art Institute of Austin, a branch of The Art Institute of Houston. “Black Friday will have some deals, but it won’t be the end-all of sales through the season.”
With that in mind, here are three holiday shopping tips that are sure to help.
You have no idea where to start or what to buy: Kate Campbell, a former buyer for Dillard’s, suggests starting with a search of hot lists or top-pick lists. Campbell currently serves as the director of the Fashion Marketing & Management program at The Art Institute of Tampa, a branch of Miami International University of Art & Design. Whether it is toys, apparel or electronics, major retailers and brand-specific websites are publishing “hot holiday lists” and top picks for almost anything.
“I’ve seen top picks by Amazon, Toys R Us, and PC Magazine for electronics,” said Campbell. “There are even top pick lists for cosmetics and best buys for kitchen ware.”
Blum adds that novelty gifts are also a great way to make an impact and a good place to start. She challenges shoppers to step away from the large retail stores and buy from privately owned businesses like local boutiques and mom and pop stores.
“People really respond to unique gifts, and it puts the magic back into gift-giving,” she said. “Think outside the box, anything from craft beers, to personalized yoga mats, to craft jewelry could all make great gifts.”
Looking to save time and money: If you’re constantly on the go and prefer to rely on some preliminary shopping via your cellphone or mobile tablet, many apps can make shopping a bit more organized and convenient.
“There are apps for apparel such as Wanelo and Wish, and major retailers or brands also have their own apps such as Pink Nation for Victoria’s Secret,” Campbell said.
Need to keep track of all your online purchases? There’s an app for that! The larger shipping services like UPS and FedEx have their own apps, but you can also try the Slice app or the Posted app depending on your needs. Campbell warns that shoppers should plan for extra time on their delivery schedule when purchasing online or via an app.
“Online and app shopping will save you the hassle and time, but you need to plan for shipping delays,” she said. “Some of your items could easily be coming from China and take a whole month to arrive.”
Blum recommends surfing products online for a cost difference from store prices. If you print out the shopping cart you intended to purchase, and bring it in store, the retailer will often honor the price savings. Knowing and shopping the promotions before you go to the store is a different way of couponing.
Want additional savings? Blum recommends the Amazon app for your smartphone. Just scan the in-store item’s barcode and the app will tell you if Amazon has the same item for less. She cautions that the Amazon app doesn’t work with generic brand items.
Complete your shopping in one place or in one day: Pick and choose where you think you may spend the majority of your holiday budget, and join the loyalty programs for coupons and reductions.
“Be choosy and make sure you register with the loyalty programs that will really deliver savings and unique purchases as opposed to spam mail,” Campbell said.
The key to holiday shopping is to avoid impulse buying. Make a list, and start early. Go online or ask your loved ones and friends about their hobbies. Stress relief and savings are the result of doing the homework. If you don’t, the worst will happen – you’ll force yourself to buy out of desperation.