Call me Scrooge, but I hate shopping during the holiday season. I enjoy giving gifts to my family, friends and coworkers, but I hate the hot, crowded stores and long lines.
I especially dislike dealing with the frazzled nerves of other shoppers and store personnel. I speak from experience, of course. I spent one Christmas season during college working in retail. That was enough for me. It was not a pleasant experience.
A few years ago, I had to run out to a local superstore on a Sunday afternoon just days before Christmas. The store was jam packed, and it was difficult to get anywhere quickly. As I pushed my cart down an aisle in the grocery section, I accidentally bumped into a fellow shopper. I immediately told the woman I was sorry, to which she growled, “No, you’re not!” and walked away.
Ouch! Talk about crabby. I was sorry, but her response certainly gave me pause.
The Christmas season is a stressful time for lots of folks. I assume it was for that woman in the store. I know it is for me.
Friday marks the official beginning of the Christmas shopping season. If you’ve ever been out on Black Friday, you know it’s a chaotic scene. There are often crowds of people waiting for the doors to open so that they can rush in to be one of the few to claim the limited inventory on severely reduced-priced items.
Stores open earlier and earlier each year to try to beat the competition and start the season with high volume sales. This year, some are even opening at midnight. Shoppers will barely have time to digest all that Thanksgiving turkey and stuffing before they start their marathon shopping excursion.
Not me. I’ll be at home in my bed dreaming of Thanksgiving leftovers and the miracles of shape wear.
I already have a good portion of my Christmas shopping done. Much of it was done online, and the rest of it probably will be, too. Online retailers created Cyber Monday for people just like me. They offer special deals that are only available on that day, just like Black Friday. This year, some are even offering Cyber Monday deals before Thanksgiving.
If you want to give yourself a little break from the maddening crowds, here are a few of my favorite online shopping sites:
Etsy.com: I love this site. It’s filled with hundreds of individual shops that carry handmade goodies of every variety. If you want unique jewelry, accessories, home décor, children’s clothes and toys or even furniture, this is the site for you. It’s best not to wait until the last minute to shop here, though. Items often sell out and since they are shipped from individual craftspeople, shipping can take a few days.
Ebates.com: This isn’t so much a shopping site as it is a portal to other sites. By going through ebates to shop at any of the stores listed, you earn rebates based on the amount of money you spend in that store. It’s like using one of those credit cards that offers cash back. Last year I not only received a couple of checks based on my purchases, I also received a Target gift card just for being a new member and making a purchase through the site.
Amazon.com: Amazon has come a very long way since its start as a bookseller, and it continues to grow. Through its affiliate programs, you can find just about anything on Amazon these days including appliances, tools and even pet food. I like that almost every product includes reviews from other shoppers and a star rating based on these reviews.
Shutterfly.com: If you’re like me and have lots of digital photos from vacations and family gatherings just sitting around taking up memory on your computer or camera, this is great site to turn those photos into something fun. You can create one-of-a-kind gifts with your pictures including books, calendars, blankets and wall art.
Another alternative to the crowds is to shop small and shop local. Visit the small mom and pop stores that can be found in just about every town in the area. They often offer unique and locally-produced products, free wrapping and recommendations if you need some help finding just the right gift. Plus, you’re helping to ensure the success of a small business.
For those of you who revel in the Black Friday shopping experience, check out www.theblackfriday.com for information on store hours, ads and sales.
Best wishes for a joyous, healthy and stress free holiday season!