Tips for a Stress-free Holiday Shopping Season

Photo courtesy of Peter Hilton, Flickr Creative Commons

This winter, millions of happy holiday gift givers will shop till they drop. The National Retail Federation is projecting a 4.1 percent increase in holiday sales over last year, meaning that retailers across the nation will rake in $616.9 billion this holiday season. All of those full shopping bags and mile-long register lines that create such a boom in our economy during the holidays can also create spikes in shoppers’ stress levels. Holiday shopping anxiety can really put a damper on the most wonderful time of the year. This side effect of the season is not completely avoidable, but if you follow these perfectly gift-wrapped tips, you will be sure to have a holly jolly time doing your holiday shopping this year.

Do not wait until after Thanksgiving to begin gift shopping. As unsettling as it may be to see Hallmark ornaments for sale in July, this trend of starting the holiday season earlier and earlier each year is not going anywhere any time soon. In fact, it is easiest to stumble upon the perfect gifts when you are not trying so hard to find them. Keeping your eyes open all year for potential presents can alleviate a lot of your stress when the holiday season rolls around because you will already have a few people crossed off your list.

Knowing who you are shopping for before you start buying is a good way to keep your stress level and your budget down. Make a list of who you are planning to give to, and include ideas of what to give and how much to spend on each person. Do not skip the small stuff. Remember that you are going to have to buy enough wrapping paper and tape to wrap all of these gifts, too.

Decide on an amount that you can afford to spend, and tailor your list to it. Respect the budget. Making gifts is one way to avoid breaking the bank and to give a more personal touch to the holiday season. Spending $10 on supplies and a little bit of your free time to knit your grandma a scarf is a lot more budget savvy than buying one for $15, and it’ll warm her heart that you spent time making it.

The retail elves are busy all season long making coupons, deals and promotions to draw holiday shoppers into stores. Before you head off to the mall, check for coupons and deals on sites like RetailMeNot and browse through discounted gift sites like Groupon or ScoutMob. Do not buy things without purpose just because they go for a good deal. Shoppers should also avoid promotions, which often tempt people to stray from their budgets and buy things that they do not need. Watch out for the “free” gifts that so many stores are advertising, and look for real deals and coupons instead.

Take advantage of the technology at your fingertips. If done wisely, shopping online on sites like Amazon on days like Cyber Monday can save you time and money, and will spare you the headache of navigating crowded stores. Some retailers, like Target, even offer extra deals that you can only take advantage of online. To make sure that a product is a reliable purchase, you can check out sources like Consumer Report Amazon reviews. You should also preorder gifts whenever possible to avoid waiting on long lines. 

Participating in the Black Friday madness can score you some great deals, but it can also be stressful. Black Friday shoppers Alyssa Dumatol and Michael Meltzer dished on some secrets that can help you unwrap Black Friday anxiety: “Know exactly what you want and where you’re going to shop ahead of time,” said junior Dumatol.

Deciding when to go out Black Friday shopping can be tricky, too. “There are different deals at different times,” advised junior Meltzer. “Skip the really hectic times unless there’s a particular item or deal that you feel you absolutely must have. It usually isn’t worth the stress, anyway.”