BY JON CRONIN
Although it has been dubbed “the most wonderful time of the year,” the holidays are also among the worst times of the year to shop, due to long lines at stores that are overstuffed with shoppers and screaming children.
To make your holiday shopping experience easier, consider planning ahead. Write a list of everyone for whom you will shop and then brainstorm about what they might like.
Think back to conversations you’ve had or interests that you know they have. Remember, the perfect gift for loved ones does not have to be expensive, but rather one that lets them know you understand them and listen to what they say.
For many shoppers, money is tight. So, create a budget. If you decide to venture out into the dog-eat-dog world of frustrated consumers in malls and big-box stores, leave your credit and debit cards at home. After you have set a budget, take out the amount you need in cash, label envelopes with the names of those for whom you’re buying and then put the money you will spend on each individual into the corresponding envelope. This way, you are not tempted to overspend or buy anything unnecessary for yourself.
The stores are packed right now. Therefore, online shopping could be the way to go. Although some stores don’t offer home delivery, you can purchase an item online and have it set aside for you at the store. At stores such as Best Buy, you can walk right to a counter where those purchases are kept and pick it up without having to deal with the hustle and bustle of lines and frustrated shoppers.
Doing reconnaissance online on items your family wants is the way to go in our technology-driven era. If you find yourself in a mall or toy store and your child points to something he wants, you may not have to purchase it there. Take a photo of the item with your phone and comparison-shop right online. If you find a competitor with a better price, you might be able to convince the store you’re in to price match, if you can find an employee who isn’t overwhelmed.
While shopping, look for discount codes online. One of the best ways to do this is to check out local and national retailers’ social media campaigns. They will likely list their largest discounts and provide discount codes on Facebook or Twitter. Then, check which of your credit cards offers the best cash-back savings deal. While online, check out websites such as www.freeshippingday.com,
RetailMeNot.com, SecretPrices.com and FreeShipping.org. You can also check out www.ebates.com to see where you can receive rebates.
Another great idea is to shop locally. Local neighborhood stores might not be as busy, and they will likely give the best customer service since they appreciate your business more than retailers do. In addition, your money will not be going to stockholders, CEOs or a chairman of any board. It will be going to your neighbor, who will use that money to pay her rent, mortgage, utilities or for ballet lessons, hockey lessons or holiday presents for her own children.
Reach reporter Jon Cronin via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (718) 357-7400, ext. 125.