Now that Thanksgiving is officially in the books, sights are set on preparing for the busiest shopping season of the year. From Black Friday until December 24th, millions of Americans will be hitting the stores to try to tackle their loved one's holiday gift lists. It's a task that can be hard enough in and of itself, but especially in a pandemic year, so we have a few tips to help make your shopping experience a little smoother.
1. MAKE A LIST
We can't stress this enough. The more detailed you make what you want/need to find, the easier it will be to pinpoint that exact item or at least a decent substitute. Don't be surprised if you are swayed into an impulse purchase when you come across a carefully curated holiday display. It's ok! That's what they are there for - to sway shoppers who already know what they are shopping for and to offer gift ideas to those who don't. When you're roaming through a store you can sometimes find great gifts that you wouldn't have even thought of, but you'll still be better off if you already have a good idea of what you are looking for.
This is one of the most important tips when it comes to slashing your shopping time and trimming your costs. Taking ten or even twenty minutes at home to find where items can be found in your area will really trim your travel time in the car and in the store. You can compare prices, check out styles, colors, sizes offered, and help ensure you actually get your hands on it. Think about it. How many times have you gone to a store looking for a particular item only to find out they didn't have it? A quick online search of a specific store website can tell you in a few clicks if an item is available. No, that doesn't guarantee that it will still be available when you get there, but you may be able to purchase it online to pick up at the store. It's a service offered by a number of companies in 2020, not only for convenience but for those who opt to stay out of the stores for health and safety reasons related to Covid.
3. SAVE THOSE RECEIPTS
Everyone should have a receipt filing system in place BEFORE you head out to your first store. Some stores now offer receipts that can be either emailed, printed or both, but others still only offer printed. Keep that in mind when you are trying to access all of your gift receipts. If you are only doing paper, make sure you have a designated area to store your receipts for that day in the same place - whether it's a specific compartment in your purse, wallet, or car. Shoving one receipt here and another there will only lead to confusion when you go searching for one in particular. If you are an all-digital all the way type of person you can take a picture of your paper receipt when you leave the store and email it to yourself with the store name and date of purchase in the subject line so your emailed and printed receipts can be found in the same place.
Han·gry: bad-tempered or irritable as a result of hunger.
Hangry is a word that was added to the Oxford Dictionary in 2018. It is the real deal. Shopping takes a lot out of you and emotions can be high when you are caught in the hustle and bustle of running from store to store for the perfect gift. Don't do it on an empty stomach! Make sure you eat before you leave the house and arm yourself with plenty of snacks and water in the car because you never know how long you are going to be (just ask my husband). If you plan on grabbing a quick bite at a restaurant or hitting a drive-thru you still want to pack a few snacks because you never know how long the wait or the lines might be. This is an especially important tip for those with food allergies. Certain allergy-friendly foods can be hard to find when you are on the go.
5. HEALTH & SAFETY
I always hate talking about this point, but it is an important one. Unfortunately, there is a need to stay vigilant when you are out and about because there are people out there who do not have the best intentions when it comes to your well-being.
Always be smart when it comes to keeping your personal items on you, never leave packages, purses, phones, or wallets unattended and out and away from you whether it's in a shopping cart, or placed on a counter. Not only will you run the risk of losing items, but you are opening yourself up to potential thieves who look to take advantage of those easy opportunities.
Also, be aware of your surroundings. If something doesn't feel right, let someone know. If you are getting ready to walk out to your car and you think someone may be following you, return to the store and see if there is a manager or security guard who may be able to walk you out. It is always better to be safe than sorry. Make sure you have your keys ready to go BEFORE you leave the store so you don't need to go searching for them in the middle of the parking lot and if you are shopping alone be sure to glance under your car, in the back seat, and the car next to you before getting in. Once again, always better to be safe.
Lastly, in a pandemic year, it is important to remember that we need to be mindful of ways to protect ourselves and others. Stores mandate that you wear masks indoors, so always keep an extra one or two in the car so you'll never be left without. Take advantage of hand sanitizer offered at store entrances and keep a big bottle of your own in the car for in between. Don't forget to reach for it before you reach for those snacks.