How to buy
IT BEGINS. With the calendar turning to November, our eyes and stomachs turn to that fabulous day of turkey, stuffing, and whatever else is on our Thanksgiving table. Beyond that bountiful day of food and football, however, lies the dark specter of...HOLIDAY SHOPPING!!!!
Its a crazy time in retail, as the highest sales of the year are always expected between November 1st and December 31st. We know you are going to have to mingle among the masses and purchase some gifts, and we want to help you avoid the shell-shock. Check out these 10 tips that will make your shopping experience easier and faster than you ever thought possible.
Simply put: ITS DANGEROUS TO GO ALONE. TAKE THESE TIPS!
Big savings aren't limited to Black Friday and Cyber Monday
A lot of folks think that once the two biggest shopping days are over and the post-Thanksgiving sales end, itll be full price products until New Years Day. This isnt the case. Stores have sales ALL THE TIME on just about everything. Daily, weekly, weekend-ly--there are plenty of saving opportunities to be had.
Dont be so foolish as to quit looking for good deals after the main weekend is over. Keep an eye on the ads of every web page you view, as they could be advertising a stellar deal right under your nose. (For suggestions, check out our holiday deals compilation.) Also, pay attention to commercials for the big box bargains. If nothing else, heed the advice of the next tip...
Weekly store circulars are your FRIEND
Theres no better place to find these deals than in the newspaper, the mailbox, or at the front of any store you choose. These catalogs are MADE to tell you what the best deals are; why would anyone ignore them? Sure, they double the size of the newspaper and tend to fall out and make a mess, but that doesnt make them any less valuable of a resource.
Heres a quick pro-tip: In most places, the Sunday paper is rife with these circulars, and the sales advertised are normally from Sunday (the day you get the paper) to Saturday (the day before the next set of circulars should arrive). Every sale for the entire week will be laid out in front of you when the newspaper hits your doorstep. Its easier than booting up the PC to check things out. Speaking of which...
Check the online stores every day for daily web-only deals
For all of the deals the circulars present, most of the time they say nothing about whats happening on the digital front. Big time chains tend to have online-only sales that are exclusive to the web and cannot be found in-store. Make sure to check both types of deals before deciding which one to pursue.
Furthermore, online-only marketplaces like Amazon arent going to have a circular in the paper; all of their deals will be advertised on their site only. Amazon specifically loves their Daily Lightning Deals, so a daily trip to see whats going on is certainly worth it. That due diligence can be the difference between paying full price and saving a boatload, and all it takes is a few typed words and mouse clicks.
When hitting the stores, there will be other people--patience is key
Heed this warning: You will NOT be the only one heading to the retail realm for the big sales. Others will be out in full force, and sometimes your fellow man will drive you mad. Keep a level head about you and concentrate on why youre out in the thick of things in the first place. Its supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year, right?
There may be long lines, there may be uncouth shoppers, and there may even be arguments and fistfights (Black Friday especially). Dont get involved and dont get in the middle of it: You may lose out on the sale you wanted, but is it worth spending a night in the holding tank of your local jail or in the emergency room? No, of course not.
Know what you're getting and who's it for before setting foot in the stores
Want to know the best way to avoid getting into a fight? Game plan. Know what you want, what store youre buying it from, and where in the store its located. Walk the store of your choice a few days beforehand and become familiar with the stores layout. Be ready to just walk in, get what you need, and get out. Most importantly, know who the gift is for and make sure the recipient actually wants or needs the item before you go stick your neck out for it.
Theres no better way to avoid the madness than to optimize your time as best you can. Wandering around a store on Black Friday with no direction will only result in confusion and increased emotion, and thats never a good thing. Keep Calm and Shop On, as it were.
The most expensive item doesn't always make the best gift
Some believe that more numbers in the price of a gift always makes the gift superior. While that may be literally true (paying more money should indeed result in a more advanced product), its not always the case. Sometimes a smaller gift with a ton of thought behind it can mean worlds more to the recipient.
Its easy to walk into a store, find something new and shiny, and decide yup, thats what Mom is getting, next! However, do you even know dear Mother will use this item, or are you just trying to show off your fat wallet? Put some thought into what you buy: sentimental thought, comedic inside-joke thought, some kind of thought other than man, thats pricey, theyll love me for this! If your gift shows that you thought more of the recipient than just a name on a holiday checklist, youre doing it right.
Not sure what to buy someone? Check their interests on social media!
Its a holiday nightmare scenario: Names and gift ideas go into a hat, everyone takes one slip, and the one you pick up has only a name, no gifts. UGH. What in Chrismahaunakwanzaa are you supposed to do? Youve no way to know what to buy this person!
But wait! Theres a digital life preserver: SOCIAL MEDIA! Facebook, Twitter, et al are swimming with ideas. Find that persons page, take a look at what they like and dont like, then have at it! Is there a particular game genre they like? Are they constantly Tweeting about a video game they want but cant get until after the holidays? Jackpot! Use these sites to your advantage!
Gift cards and money, unless asked for specifically, should be a last resort
This should be self-explanatory, but theres nothing more thoughtless than giving a close friend or family member gift cards or cash. Sure, theyre universal gifts, but a lot of the time it says I had no idea what to get you, so you do the work for me.
Also, by doing this, you risk looking like even more of a dope if that friend or family member went all out on your present. Do you want to be the guy or girl who shows up with a gift card when your best friend bought you something really awesome? No, no one does, so dont risk it unless you absolutely have no other alternative.
Compare your list of gifts with family members and friends to ensure no doubles
Congratulations! You bought a stellar gift for your friend that you KNOW he or she is going to flip out over. Youve done a bang-up job this year, my friend, and you couldnt be happier...only you arrive at the friends house to find out that his or her parents beat you to it. Drat!
Theres nothing wrong with doing some homework to make sure youre not doubling gifts. If you see something you want to get a friend, talk to some other friends or even that friends parents and see if that gift is already coming your his or her way. If it is, youve saved yourself a brief moment of embarrassment. If not, you get all the glory to yourself. Win-win.
If purchasing for a child, make sure the parents are OK with the gift
Imagine being the guy who buys his young nephew Call of Duty: Black Ops II, only to have your brother or sister tell you hes not allowed to play violent games like that. First of all, you should have known that to begin with, and second of all, YOU SHOULD HAVE KNOWN THAT TO BEGIN WITH.
Check with the parents of EVERY SINGLE child on your list, no exceptions. Be aware of what the parents approve of the child doing. Ask them about what they allow and dont allow. This simple step could be the difference between being the coolest uncle ever and being the dope who doesnt pay attention.
Let the shopping begin
We offer these tips to all those intrepid souls who plan to brandish their wallets and set out into the retail wilds. However, we also want to hear from you, the brave shopper. What tips would you pass on to your shopping peers? What would you tell those who are experiencing the holiday shopping season for the first time? Let us know in the comments...and Godspeed to all.