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Don't panic: 5 tips for last-minute holiday shoppers

Posted by Alex Pearlman  December 22, 2011 09:04 AM

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christmas shopping crowds.jpgBy Alison Amorello

You've gone and done it again: Another year, another busy December full of work, parties, football games, and excuses to put off your holiday shopping. And now, my skilled procrastinator, you find yourself empty-handed a mere three days before Christmas. That’s right -- your mother’s new perfume set is locked in some glass case at Macy’s instead of wrapped up underneath your tree. Proud of yourself?

You may be on the naughty list, but there is (a little) time for you yet. In the spirit of the season, I’ll spare you the lecture and offer some assistance. You can still successfully make your purchases despite the obstacles if you take the right precautions. There will be crowds, there will be rushing, and by God, there will be annoying holiday tunes -- but you will be prepared with the following tips.

Make a Game Plan. If you know exactly who you’re buying for -- and better yet, what you’re planning to buy -- you can save a lot of time and avoid stressful, aimless wandering. Prepare by writing out the names of all recipients, a couple gift ideas for each, and where you think you can find those gifts. Make your list, but check it only once because time is of the essence, Bad Santa.

Pick a Convenient Location. Now that you know what you need, you can determine the best place to go in search of the gifts. Malls are an obvious choice, especially if you have a good one in your vicinity, but local stores might hold the perfect unique gift and be more efficient (and less holiday headache-inducing) if they're all close together. Remember that larger stores will provide a wide array of items, which could mean fewer stops and more time to sit on the couch, watch Love Actually and eat Christmas cookies -- uh, I mean, more time to wrap.

Use Your Resources. Didn't find everything you need in your first stop? ‘Tis the season to be tech savvy. Download apps that tell you where your closest retailers are located and even where the sales are. You might think you have to travel far to a certain store when, in fact, there’s another retailer with the same items right around the corner.

Be Decisive. Not sure if your boyfriend will look better in the blue or green sweater? Good news: No one cares! OK, fine, you care, but when you’re racing a deadline, there's no time to sweat the small stuff. Follow your instincts, and if you really can’t decide, grab both items. Chances are, you’re going to stand in line for several minutes or more, so you can multitask by making last-minute decisions while you wait. Hopefully, by the time you get to the register, you’ll remember how good he looks in green, and you can ditch the excess and be on your way.

Keep Calm and Shop On. While the circumstances are not ideal for a leisurely day of shopping, with a good attitude, you might just make it through the day unscathed. Before you leave the house, make sure you're dressed comfortably and fully equipped with your list, cash, cards, and Christmas cheer (perhaps in the form of caffeine and/or Bailey’s). With all your tools in place, you're ready to venture out. Try to have fun with it -- and remember that it's your own fault you're in this position in the first place. Crowds, lines, confusion, and a ticking clock can be a recipe for disaster, but if you stay calm and confident, you might just have a good time. After all, that Red Ryder BB gun you picked out is going to make a certain someone very happy!

Photo by andreanilsson1976 (Flickr)

About Alison -- I am a recent Emmanuel College graduate who loves creative writing, cheeseburgers, travel, car radio sing-a-longs, and Armenian line dancing down the hallway when no one is watching. I'm not sure what I'm up to next year or next month, but I plan on having fun for the rest of my life. Twitter: @AlisonAmorello

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