Comparison Shopping During the Holidays

If you haven’t started your Christmas shopping yet, you probably will in short order, I know I’ll be starting this week. Its a frightening time of the year to be shopping with Black Friday, Cyber Monday and a whole slew of Sales not to mention the mildly rabid crowds. Its easy to put the holiday shopping off and even harder to shop around for a good deal. In the past I would figure out what gifts I wanted to buy for people and then have a backup plan and hit the mall in a whirlwind tour, typically a day or two before the holidays; yep I was the quintessential guy last minute shopping.

I know I’m not the only one who did this, the malls were always full and as Christmas eve approached there were more maniacs like me frantically getting everything in one shot. There was a certain efficiency about it from a time perspective but I paid the price for it. I never took advantage of sales, deals or anything of the sort. I wanted to be in the mall and out as fast as possible so I could do more enjoyable things. Comparison shopping was not an option.

Fast forward about 5/6 years and its much more complicated, well I wouldn’t say complicated but there definitely are more gifts and more events/parties as we get older and our daughter grows up. Comparison shopping is now a reality in my life and so it should be. So in order to help those more frugally minded this holiday season here are my tips on comparison shopping this holiday season:

Do it On-line!

This is unfortunately a no brainer, its so much easier to go “Shopping” from your couch with the TV on in the background than it is to fight off the rabid mob of zombies at the mall. If you’re smart about your purchases you can even get cash back and free shipping while taking in substantial discounts. If you missed Cyber Monday, there’s a good chance you can still get some pretty good deals.

Plan ahead

So not everything can be bought on-line, let me rephrase that: not everything should be bought on-line. There is something to be said for looking at a product you’re going to buy and physically holding it and looking at the craftsmanship before spending money. Thankfully most stores now have websites with prices and on-line catalogues.

So there are few steps to planning ahead:

  1.  Know what you’re going to get. Put some thought into it and actually give a shit – not gift a shit. When you put some thought into a gift the person getting it will appreciate it more. But on a more practical note if you know everything you’re getting it’ll be easier to get in and out.
  2. Have comparable backups. Don’t delude yourself into thinking that you’ll get everything on the list (Unless you go the smart route and do it on-line). Make sure you have a few things you can fall back to so you don’t end up stuck panicking in the mall.
  3. Check prices on-line and know which stores even carry what you want. This way when you get to the stores you can easily identify deals and stores to go to.

The Sneak Attack

If you’re in a position where you simply have to comparison shop at the store then I would suggest a sneak attack trick I used. The day that you’re planning on shopping be the first person in the mall. Seriously, its a lot easier when you get to the mall and the stores are just opening up. Chances are the shelves haven’t been picked clean by the mob and the staff while maybe still tired and waking up haven’t been dealing with manic shoppers all day. You might even be able to ask for a discount(works more often than you think). If you can do it in the middle of the week just as the malls open up it makes it that much easier.

Stick to the List

If you’ve planned, like you should have, then you’ll know what to get and won’t be distracted. I know its not really a tactic for comparison shopping but if you know what you’re getting it will help you stay on budget. If the item you want is too expensive go to the fall-back.

Don’t be that Asshole

Finally this has nothing to do with comparison shopping but don’t be that asshole at the mall, not in the parking lot, not in the stores and not in the food court. Really there’s going to be enough shit-heads out there so stay calm, its not a race and if you can’t get the exact gadget you’ll find something else. Spending extra money for the sake of spending it just isn’t worth it.

Personally I’m going to try doing most of my shopping online; I’m setting a gift limit of about $50-70 for family members (thought my wife and daughter may get a bit more) and everyone else will get something smaller. I’m going to check the major e-tailers and shop around where I can.

Good Luck!

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