Holiday Shopping Tips to Beat the Crowds

By lindseyb, November 23, 2011, Personal Finance, Shopping Tips

If you’re a savvy shopper looking to save money on gifts for the holidays, shopping during the pre-holiday sale season is a no-brainer to get the best holiday retail sales. Then again, oftentimes holiday shoppers can feel like they’re practically risking their lives to get their hands on the best deals because they have to work their way through crowds of store patrons just to get from one aisle to the next. Arm yourself for “battle” with these effective holiday shopping tips to beat the crowds–but still enjoy the savings!

  • Start holiday shopping early. Sales don’t go on hiatus just because the holidays are months away. It seems like the holiday shopping season starts earlier and earlier every year. In fact, more and more stores are competing to start on the holiday sales events weeks ahead of Thanksgiving. Budget what you can afford to spend every week and start shopping as soon as possible without going over that weekly budget. You can also start buying items on layaway, if the store offers a layaway policy. This helps you avoid a large bill all at once, which you’re likely to get if you wait until the small window of time between Thanksgiving and the rest of the winter holidays.
  • Plan ahead. Never go to a store with holiday retail sales without first looking online or in sales papers and making a list of what you plan to buy. You can see some holiday shopping sales papers online in advance of their normal Sunday, mid-week or special Thanksgiving day release. Going to the store with a specific plan to follow will help you move more smoothly through the meandering crowds as you go from the entrance to Point A to Point B to pick up the specific items on your list with no distractions. Buying only items on your list helps you stick to your holiday gift budget for the trip much more effectively than wandering around and seeing what everyone else is buying.
  • Carpool or take public transportation. Half of the battle of fighting off holiday shopping crowds occurs before you even get out of your car. Store parking lots are packed during holiday shopping season, so limit the time you spend circling the parking lot looking for a spot. Carpool with friends or family and take turns being the driver so you don’t all have to find parking spots. You can also take a bus or subway, if possible, and avoid the parking lot altogether. Hiring a taxi is also an option. Just remember that the space you have for shopping bags will be limited when carpooling or taking public transportation.
  • Order online. Avoid the crowds completely by doing the bulk of your holiday shopping online. The Monday after Thanksgiving is called “Cyber Monday” and is equivalent to the Black Friday sales you see in stores the day after Thanksgiving–only on Cyber Monday, you can shop from the comfort of your own home. Stores that operate entirely online are the most likely to have deals. Check for stores that offer free shipping, too. As when you’re shopping in stores, make a list of what you want to buy to avoid going over budget. Be aware that sometimes the rush to buy items on Cyber Monday can cause store websites to crash or slow down, so you may not get everything you want if you wait until that day to start online shopping. Begin online holiday shopping weeks before Cyber Monday; weekly holiday retail sales start as early as October.
  • Start shopping for next year after the holidays. After an exhausting few weeks of shopping for the holidays, many shoppers aren’t in the mood to start thinking about next year as soon as the next day after a holiday. However, that’s when you can find a lot of the best holiday retail sales, especially on holiday decorations and items in holiday packaging. If you stuck to the budget-savvy method of holiday shopping, you may not be as exhausted or as strapped for cash as someone who hopped from store to store without a budget and a plan. Set aside some time on the holiday to go over sales flyers, make a list and set a budget for the next day. You can find items at 50% or even as much as 75% off right after the holiday season. Just be sure you have a good hiding place to start storing the Christmas gifts for next year!
These tips are sure to help you save money and gain peace of mind during the upcoming Holidays.

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