Ten Tips For Smarter Shopping During The Holiday Season

Well, it​ is​ definitely that time of​ year again, the​ time of​ year when we are all being forced to​ think about the​ holiday shopping season even before Halloween has come and​ gone. It's still warm outside and​ the​ store displays are now featuring Santa Claus and​ the​ newest glittering Christmas ornaments for​ your Christmas tree. So, I suppose then it​ would be wise of​ us to​ begin thinking about how to​ approach our shopping techniques for​ the​ new holiday season. We simply must make a​ commitment to​ not making the​ same mistakes we made last year - standing in​ the​ long lines, fighting the​ crowds, spending more than we budgeted, waiting until the​ absolute last minute or​ being the​ first in​ line on "Black Friday" (the day after Thanksgiving which traditionally marks the​ start of​ the​ holiday shopping season) and​ ultimately getting trampled over as​ we fight to​ get that discounted digital camera or​ flat screen tv.

Instead, we are going to​ take the​ "Smarter Shopper Holiday Pledge" (for printing and​ sharing).

"Smarter Shopper Holiday Pledge"

I, (insert your name here), pledge to​ adhere to​ the​ ten holiday shopping tips outlined below. I realize that by not doing so, I may suffer the​ consequences of​ holiday shopper's remorse which include but are not limited to: loss of​ cash reserves, higher credit card debt, and​ near insanity from overexposure to​ large crowds, outrageous lines, and​ low product inventory.

1. I will use cash.
Using cash makes it​ easier to​ stay within the​ budget. I don't even mean using your debit card because you're able to​ justify going over just a​ bit on a​ particular gift if​ there's money available in​ your checking account. I say set limits, use cash, and​ when the​ cash is​ gone, there's no more gift buying. Now, this is​ going to​ take some self-control and​ I struggle with it​ myself at​ the​ holiday season, but if​ you've got $100 for​ gifts, then don't push the​ budget and​ spend $101. No matter how wrapped up you get into the​ Christmas lights, music, and​ other smiling holiday shoppers carrying their large shopping bags, stay within your budget…cash will help you do that!

2. I will keep track of​ my credit card spending.
Ok, if​ you absolutely must use a​ credit card, use the​ one with the​ lowest interest and​ know how you are going to​ pay off the​ credit card balance. Carrying balances obviously costs more than the​ item itself. So, that bargain that we got at​ the​ holidays is​ no longer a​ bargain 90 - 120 days later. Have a​ plan to​ pay off the​ holiday purchases. Additionally and​ just as​ important, know how much you are spending on those credit cards. You still need to​ set limits.

3. I will be patient.
There's nothing like waiting in​ a​ long check out line and​ have to​ endure price check after price check or​ a​ declined credit card holder arguing with the​ cashier, or​ even a​ shift change just as​ you approach the​ register. However, we all know these things happen. Calm down and​ be patient. Should you need a​ small book or​ magazine to​ bring along with you, do so. if​ leaving the​ kids at​ home is​ an​ option because they'll add additional stress to​ your trip, do so. Maybe just taking a​ deep breath will help. Just calm down and​ be patient.

4. I will start shopping early in​ the​ season and​ get it​ out of​ the​ way.
I've never understood why people wait until the​ very last minute to​ do their holiday shopping when they know it​ drives them nuts. Start shopping now. the​ malls aren't overcrowded yet. No one else is​ really thinking about holiday shopping for​ now. You could be the​ first one.

5. I will give less expensive but creative gifts instead.
Now, I'm not necessarily suggesting arts and​ crafts here unless of​ course that's what you want to​ do. But, all of​ us are not creative minds. However, for​ example, if​ you think of​ one gift that would work an​ entire family, you'll definitely save money. My family loves old movies. a​ great creative gift basket consisting of​ a​ few old movies, popcorn and​ candy, and​ maybe a​ blanket would definitely be less expensive than trying to​ get us all individual gifts. Think outside the​ box to​ say money!

6. I will have a​ game plan.
In order to​ get those must have items or​ those hard to​ find popular items, you have to​ create a​ game plan. That game plan has to​ take in​ consideration the​ availability of​ the​ items, the​ budget, and​ when you can go get the​ items. Don't leave your house without a​ game plan outlining where you're going, what you're going to​ purchase, how much you are going to​ purchase it​ for, and​ what your alternate gift selections are. Yes, you should at​ least have in​ mind what the​ alternate gift item will be should you not be able to​ find the​ gift or​ if​ you are on the​ loosing end of​ an​ in-store battle with another determined mom.

7. I will shop safely.
Safer is​ better. Watch your personal belongings at​ all times including handbags, purchases, and​ children. Pay particular attention at​ the​ register when you can be distracted by the​ particulars of​ the​ transaction or​ outside in​ the​ parking lot or​ waiting on public transportation. Last holiday season I was out late with other shoppers on Chicago's Magnificent Mile, where you might feel a​ false sense of​ security. a​ team of​ purse-snatchers was out looking for​ their next victim. They spotted her, with her children, completely distracted, purse wide open, while crossing busy Michigan Avenue. Luckily, someone else saw how the​ situation was about to​ unfold and​ warned her before her holiday shopping season was be ruined. Be a​ safe shopper!

8. I will get enough rest.
There's nothing like going out during the​ holiday shopping season and​ running out of​ steam. an​ important part of​ your shopping game plan should be to​ get plenty of​ rest the​ night before. Get a​ great start in​ the​ morning with a​ good breakfast and​ wear comfortable shoes. You should be all set to​ go. These type of​ shopping trips can sometimes go all day and​ night, especially if​ you're like a​ friend of​ mine who likes to​ literally shop until the​ stores close down, grabbing that last bargain on the​ rack as​ the​ last call announcement goes out over the​ intercom. Be prepared and​ get some rest.

9. I will not forget the​ bargains at​ the​ outlet malls.
If you are in​ downtown Chicago and​ looking for​ a​ change, one of​ the​ outlet malls for​ holiday bargains. You'll need a​ car but the​ prices can be well worth the​ drive. When we make a​ list of​ things to​ do in​ Chicago, we often overlook the​ feasibility of​ the​ outlet malls. There are bargains on upscale merchandise from designers such as​ Kate Spade, Giorgio Armani, and​ Coach at​ Chicago Premium Outlet Mall and​ Lighthouse Place Premium Outlet (in nearby Michigan City, Indiana). Gurnee Mills Outlet Mall features retailers for​ the​ whole family, a​ huge Cineplex, as​ well as, a​ reptile zoo…just in​ case the​ kids need a​ break. and​ if​ you go to​ Gurnee Mills Outlet Mall, then you might as​ well stop by Prime Outlets Pleasant Prairie Mall which is​ just a​ few miles away just across the​ Wisconsin border. Or, you might choose to​ visit the​ Prime Outlet Mall in​ Huntley, Illinois which is​ located just west of​ Chicago along the​ Northwest toll way. Visiting the​ Prime Outlet Mall in​ Huntley would give you the​ added opportunity to​ visit the​ IKEA store and​ the​ Woodfield Mall in​ Schaumburg, Illinois.

10. I will attempt to​ avoid the​ crowds at​ all costs.
Shopping earlier during the​ day or​ first thing Saturday morning will help avoid some of​ the​ crowd during the​ week and​ those late risers on Saturday or​ Sunday. or​ if​ you like shop later in​ the​ evening, most stores will have extended holiday hours. Most people like to​ be at​ home by this time. This can work in​ your favor. There are fewer crowds in​ the​ evening. But remember to​ be safe.

Note: You, could of​ course, just do your shopping online but then that takes all of​ the​ "fun" out of​ the​ whole holiday shopping experience.

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