07 December 2006

Strategic Shopping

Sorry for my absence--I had a couple of days off and spent much of it shopping. The Northshore Mall was busy on Tuesday afternoon, but not unbearable. It got me thinking about how I approach holiday shopping. I genuinely enjoy the holiday season, but the pressures of gift giving (and the infernal music in the stores) have a way of taking a toll on even the most enthused shopper. That energy is better spent on other things; you need to keep your head about you and face the task with tactical efficiency. And so I'm offering my unsolicited advice on how to be a ruthless guerilla shopper:
  • It goes without saying (but I'll say it anyway) that the biggest stress-saver is to shop online. If you plan ahead even a little, you can probably cross off at least half the items on your list.
  • If your goal is a specific item, use a web site like PriceGrabber to search for the best price. Even if you plan to buy it in person, it can guide you to the local store with the best price.
  • Solicit ideas from your family members and friends: if you aren't sure what someone likes or needs or wants, ask. Try to get several ideas so there's still some element of surprise. If you don't want to ask directly, talk to another person close to the recipient; chances are they've already heard some wishes. (I always quiz my mother about my brother and sister.)
  • Look for inspiration: ignore the displays of junky "gifts" in the stores. Flip through magazines and newspapers. Read web sites and gift guides. Check out what other people are buying.
  • Avoid the places that are most likely to give you agita, like toy stores. If you need a gift from such a place, it can almost certainly be found online easily enough, and probably for less money.
  • Go to malls or big stores at odd hours. Early or late is best, and most stores have extended hours to accommodate strategic shoppers like yourself. Maybe you can squeeze in a stop at the mall before going to work, or do a late-night run.
  • Set a time limit so you don't exhaust yourself. Wear good walking shoes and drink water.
  • Divide and conquer: two can shop more efficiently than one.
  • Shop smaller, local stores: you are more likely to be inspired by the less-common items you'll find there.
  • Buy something for yourself. Yes, that's right. No one ever gets everything they want, so choose something and treat yourself. You deserve it. We all do.

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