Shopping tips for the mall-phobic buyer

- Contributed Photo

If you are after the deepest discounts on the season’s most popular items, I hope you set your alarm clock, because those “Black Friday” sales have been getting earlier and earlier.

For some people, however, the highest priority is not to fight their way to the front of the line, but to enjoy a stress-free shopping season. But even if you would rather be perceived as a parsimonious Grinch than face teeming crowds while doing your holiday shopping, there are still ways you can check all the names off your list while avoiding the mall madness.

Start early: If you were out there with a list in your hand in September, you could have had enjoyed wide open aisles and your pick of the merchandise. If you wait until Christmas Eve, when everybody else is at home, you are stuck with the store’s picked-through leftovers. If it’s too now, keep that in mind for next year.

Avoid weekends: Saturdays and Sundays are by far the busiest shopping days of the season, so stick to weekdays for shorter check-out lines. Many stores have extended holiday hours, so take advantage of those very early or very late shopping opportunities – not many people do.

Try a specialty store: The smaller, “Mom and Pop” operations often don’t see as large of a sales boost during the holidays as the huge, national corporations with endless marketing budgets. Now is the perfect time to support your neighbors and your community by visiting local, independently-owned specialty shops. They are usually quieter, and the staff can offer much more personalized service. Look around, and you can find some great deals on unique items.

Buy extra gifts: When you see something you really like, buy a bunch of them. Find a few “generic” items on sale that are appropriate for anybody on your list, and purchase extras. This will also help if somebody gives you a gift you were not expecting, so you can easily return the favor.

Shop online: The most stress-free shopping is just a few mouse clicks away. Nearly every store you can think of now offers its full catalogue online, and many have web-only sales this time of year. Most stores also offer free or discounted shipping if your purchase is over a certain dollar amount. It’s easy to find everything you want, and payment is quick and secure.

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