Monday, November 17, 2008

Shopping tips you won't find in a magazine

I have to go grocery shopping today; there's no putting it off any longer, unless I want Chef Boy R Dee ravioli for dinner and I so do not. Also, out of dog food. I saved the trip for today because:
A. I'm lazy
B. I kept putting off chores all weekend to do more fun things
C. Going on a weekday during the day, I'm less likely to want to commit murder on everyone around me

Let's go with option C and forget I ever said anything else.

But while we're on the subject, let's talk about shopping for a minute. Since I can't seem to get Christmas out of my mind and it's only going to get worse as the days go by, I think it's high time I share some of my Christmas shopping secrets. It's taken many years to get to this point, where the thought of it doesn't make me break out in hives and want to lie down for a long nap. I've never been quite as bad as my sister, who one year first went shopping on Christmas Eve only to come home empty-handed and crying - yeah, she's going to kill me for bringing that up. But I have learned some things over the years and now I'll share them with you.
Any excuse to make a list.

1. Obviously if and when possible, shop online.
This can be tricky for clothes I guess, unless you know the store well enough to know what their sizing is like. I'm pretty comfortable with Target and the Gap, period. But Amazon is my savior, my lover, my soul mate - if you think they're only good for books, like someone I heard about the other day, you are in for a treat. They have a feature running right now where you can sign up for Amazon Prime and get free shipping for 30 days, then cancel it before you have to pay for it. Unless you like it so much you will use it the rest of the year. I'm still debating this, but I have signed up.

2. Plan one day to go with a friend to a place you don't normally shop.
Picture this trip to be your fun shopping day, more of a social thing than anything, then if you happen to end up knocking a few items off your list, even better. One year I met my friend Skye in Charleston, which was the halfway point for both of us and we had a fabulous day of sight-seeing, eating and yes, shopping. It remains among my top one favorite Christmas shopping experiences of all time. I think I did actually pick up some presents that day too.

3. Alcohol (in modest amounts)
My friend JJ shared this tip with me long ago and it remains a favorite. If you happen to eat a meal while shopping (and really, who doesn't?), have one glass of wine. But, and this is important - keep it to ONE GLASS. We made the mistake one night of testing the theory and having two glasses, which led to three, which led to us laughing about how stupid Christmas shopping is and drunkenly going home to watch a movie. Not productive. But one glass is just enough to take the edge off and put you in a fabulous mood. If you have alcoholic tendencies and know you'd never be able to stop at one glass, be realistic and just don't use this tip. Ever.

4. Sedatives (again, modest)
I remember my first Xanax like it was yesterday. I don't know what that says about me and I'd rather not examine it too closely. For the sake of this list let's not worry about that. Christmas shopping, 1996. My friend R and I are out fighting the crowds the weekend after Thanksgiving. We are waiting in line in the midst of hundreds of sweaty, loud, rude people and their offspring, when all of a sudden R reaches in her purse and pulls out a pill bottle. She hands me one and says, "Take this." Not one to question things, I dry-swallowed that sucker. Twenty minutes later, the crowds no longer bothered me and everything had a lovely softened effect - the music was pretty, the children were rosy-cheeked and I was in a great mood. It was magical. Again, I wouldn't suggest this if you think it might become a habit. You'll have to be the judge.

5. Utilize your spouse or a significant other.
I know what you're going to say; going shopping with your husband or wife is a pain. Well, not if you look at it as you're running out of time, this is more manpower and you have no choice. Take your list, split it in half and send that sucker on his or her merry way. Synchronize your watches, put your cell phone in a place you'll hear it, and go forth to divide and conquer. This is usually when Brian takes the opportunity to buy me something as well, so trust me on this one - pick a store you like so whatever last-minute panic gift your person picks out for you, you'll end up liking it. Remember, I've had YEARS of experience.

6. Pay attention to the Sunday flyers.
Johnann and I are big fans of this strategy. If you don't normally get a Sunday paper (what's wrong with you - don't you enjoy color comics and coupons?), start getting one, at least for the next few weeks. Then sit down with a pen and paper and start making lists. I consider this activity fun, you might not. Weirdo. But this way, if you're looking for something in particular (an mp3 player, mayhaps?), a high ticket item, something electronic or whatever, it's very easy to compare prices and this helps tremendously in plotting out your routes and schedule. I would hate for you to go to Circuit City to get your lovely new flatscreen TV then find out you could've saved $800 by going to Best Buy. God, I hate Circuit City. They've filed bankruptcy, by the way, so while you'd think their prices would be starting to drop, so far they haven't. Bastards.

Last but not least...
7. Bite the Bullet or Going Solo.
This is your last-ditch attempt at redeeming yourself, finishing your list and putting all this madness behind you to enjoy the rest of the holidays. Potentially you might lose some sleep over this one, as the best time to do this one successfully is God-awful thirty in the morning. You know you have a 24-hour Target or Walmart near you. You also know damn well there are going to be some crazy sales on Black Friday. Bite the bullet. You can sleep later, sometime after January 1st. I hadn't done it in awhile, but last year I actually went. I didn't set my alarm the night before because I was still in denial, but I woke up on my own at 4:59 a.m. I threw on a hat, scarf and coat over my sweats and braved the dark, cold morning to cross the street and go into the Deathstar. Because of my efforts, I am now the proud owner of a Sony Cybershot camera and it was mine for the very decent price of $79.99 (plus another $19.99 for the memory stick). While it's true that was the only present I bought that day and it was for me, it's still an important part of this list.

There you have it! Good luck and happy shopping.

P.S. The writer of this blog in no way endorses the recreational use of drugs or alcohol to cope with everyday life. But Christmas shopping is not everyday life and desperate times call for desperate measures.


Anonymous said...

Booooring blog

Anonymous said...

I get an email about every other day on my Crackberry that says...

"Go to __________. Get this, this and that."

It is also generally followed by a estimated location inside of the store, where I should find said items.

She has even been known to email me photos of labels or images from the web site to make sure I leave with the right thing and the right size.

She used to try to say stuff like, "...unless it is more than $17.00." But I stopped that right away.

If it is on the list, I come home with it.


Psuedokim said...

Booooring commenter.

MTAE - Oooh, I've actually NEVER thought of doing that! Maybe then I wouldn't have to gently remind him I don't like yellow gold or Hawiian style shirts. I've gotten both and didn't want to hurt his feelings.

Anonymous said...

You're going to make me take you shopping on Michigan Avenue if you ever visit, aren't you? I hate shopping, but I like you. ;)

We'll take my friend Cindy. She's the shopper. She'll make sure you have a pleasant Chicago consumer experience. :D

Kristin D said...

I can't even deny this most horrendous of allegations. Yes, it's true. I learned my lessons young, though. Last year I was ALL done with shopping by Dec. 15th. It is my goal again this year.

Evelin said...

Nice tips..! I always prefer online shopping.