Christmas is one of my favorite times of the year. I love the music, the decorations and watching “It’s a Wonderful Life” for the 15th year in a row.
But Christmas shopping? I hate. There are few things more stressful than jostling with strangers to grab a sweater on sale. I like shopping when it’s quiet, when you can find a salesperson without waiting 30 minutes.
If you get stressed out or want to find ways to save money this season, read my rules for Christmas shopping.
Avoid Black Friday
I’m all about getting the best deal. But I also believe that people should avoid shopping on Black Friday. It’s not even about the deals getting worse. It’s about what the day reflects on us as a culture. The holidays are about being grateful for what you have and spending time with family.
When you shop on Black Friday – or even Thanksgiving night – you’re encouraging retailers to keep expanding hours for that day. Retail workers deserve to have that time to spend with their families.
It’s not that I’m against holiday shopping – I religiously shop the day after Christmas. But Black Friday represents a rise in consumerism, something I don’t believe in. The more we can learn to be appreciative of what we have, the less we need special deals and sales.
Compare the Deals
Before you go shopping, make sure you know how to spot a good deal. If you’re shopping at stores you frequent, that’s easy. For other places, do some research. Do research online and check out their competitors. Being informed is the best way you can find a truly great bargain.
Don’t Buy for the Sake of Buying
This may seem obvious, but sales bring out something primal in people. It’s like that scene in “Mean Girls” where Cady imagines all the teenagers at mall acting like animals. That’s how people react over a good deal. No one wants to miss out on saving money.
At some point, that desire takes over. Instead of asking if we really want something, we buy it just because it was a great deal. Let me reiterate: if you wouldn’t buy it on any other day, don’t buy it.
I’ve bought so many clothes only because they were a good deal. That didn’t make me wear them more or stop me from eventually putting them in the Goodwill pile.
Remember, even if you’re saving 50%, you’re still paying 50%.
Keep a List – and a Budget
It’s easy to get swept up in the frenzy of Christmas shopping. When people are crowding around you, it’s easy to get to grab something just because someone else is.
I recommend keeping a list of what you’re looking for and how much you hope to pay. This keeps you on track, so you’re not spending time at Victoria’s Secret if bras aren’t on your list.
Having a list and budget is essential for most shopping trips. A list will keep your mind rational while your emotions are running wild. Plus, the more you shop, the more you get jaded. A $50 sweater might seem like a good deal on because you’re tired, hungry and in line with a hundred other people.
Don’t be afraid to walk away.
If you don’t find any good deals, don’t hesitate to leave. It’s easy to feel like you’ve wasted hours at the mall, but buying something won’t make that experience more valuable. If you don’t see a good deal, don’t be afraid to cut your losses and walk away.
One of my favorite parts of Christmas shopping is trying out local stores and boutiques. This year, I’m heading to Denver Flea, a compilation of local vendors. I’m excited to buy presents for my family (and myself) from stores who care about the community.
You’re more likely to find unique items when you shop local and the money will go right back in the community. It’s not only the ethical thing to do, but it’s also the most fun. Buying gifts on Amazon can’t compare to the feeling of finding the perfect present in a store you never knew about.