Thursday, December 17, 2009

Dashing to the Mall? Survive the Shopping Scramble

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, with stockings filled with goodies and gifts under the tree. For last-minute shoppers the scramble to get gifts can leave you feeling stressed out instead of enjoying the Christmas spirit!

Here are some tips to make sure you’re not busting your budget or channeling Scrooge this year:

Don’t panic

The way consumers act from Black Friday to Christmas Eve, you’d think the mall is scheduled for demolition on Dec. 26. There’s no need to panic. You may not get Black Friday deals, but most stores have deep discounts throughout the month to lure shoppers. If you’re shopping online, most stores offer guaranteed delivery by Christmas if you order by Dec. 20. And many of them even offer gift wrapping!

Weeknight warriors

Trying to find a parking space at the mall on a Saturday in December is like searching for a needle in a haystack. Instead, hit the mall on your way home from work. It will be less crowded, the salesclerks will be less harried and with less hustle and bustle, you won’t be as likely to grab the first thing on display just to get the heck out of there.

Make it manageable

Make a list of the gifts you are getting so that you have a plan of action when you head to the stores. Stick to the list and you’ll stick to your budget. And break your list up into manageable chunks. If you have a bunch of toys to buy for your kids, nieces and nephews, get those one day. Focus on gifts for the women in your life the next day. And so on.

Give gift cards

Gift cards get a bad rap. They may seem impersonal but they are incredibly useful. Many supermarkets have kiosks that offer gift cards ranging from stores like the Home Depot and Toys R Us and even iTunes. If you want to make the gift cards more personal, pair them with an ornament in a gift bag. This is quick and easy, but still has a special touch.

No cash, no carry

Most importantly, don’t let the last-minute scramble force you to put gifts on credit. Christmas is about spending time with your loved ones, not spending money. If you stick to your cash budget, you won’t go overboard and you can enjoy the holidays without the stress of worrying about the bills to come.

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