Who said holiday shopping has to be hard?


Illustration by Kayce Tynan Photo credit: Kayce Tynan

With the holiday season comes what seems to be an endless list of relatives you have yet to buy gifts for. Long lines, out-of-stock items and disastrous sales floors can be a turnoff, but knowing how to tackle holiday shopping the right way can eliminate the stress that is often unavoidable when trying to find the perfect gift for your mother-in-law.

Keep these shopping tips in mind to save time, energy and money:

Mobile applications

Believe it or not, there are free apps out there that can actually help you save money while you shop. Keep this in mind before you knock out your holiday shopping list and do some research for your favorite stores.

Shopkick gives you points for simply walking into select stores. The points you rack up are applied to a reward, usually a gift card, of your choice. You can also earn points by scanning featured items on your phone or making select purchases. Not only can you trade in your points for a gift card, some stores even offer coupons through the app. For example, Best Buy not only gives you 100 points— good enough to receive American Eagle rewards— just for walking in the store, it also offers 25 percent off select TVs.

Cartwheel by Target gives shoppers a discount at checkout in the form of a mobile coupon. Shoppers can scan their items as they shop to find coupons for up to 50 percent off. Coupons are added to a mobile “cart” and generated into a coupon that can save you hundreds of dollars (if you shop right).

Retail employees

Navigating stores during the holidays can be stressful. Finding a good parking spot can tack on 20 minutes to your shopping trip, carts will be scarce and the checkout line could weave through aisles all the way to the back of the store.

But don’t forget about the little worker bees who are bending over backward to make your shopping experience a little easier. Most employees are new hires to help with the craziness of holiday shoppers, so keep in mind that they may be just as overwhelmed or frustrated as you. However, employees are trained to make customers happy at all costs, whether it be fetching you the very last Adele CD from the top shelf in the stockroom or honoring the $20 sign you believed to be sitting in front of the $40 electric blanket (so try to stay on their good side).

And remember that you’re not the only one shopping. A lot of things are going to be out of stock and stores have limited shelf space for seasonal items. Utilize online shopping (most stores offer free shipping this time of year) for a larger selection.

Best times to shop

Most stores are crowded from 10 a.m. through 8 p.m. Luckily for you, extended holiday hours are a thing (but don’t be that person who buys everything on Christmas eve). Your best bet is to get your holiday shopping done in the early morning when the store opens or after 10 p.m.

If store hours still don’t work with your schedule, call ahead to put items on hold or check what’s in stock. The best time to call is first thing in the morning when the store is fully stocked and shelves have yet to be touched by customers. But don;t forget about your holds— most stores will only keep them tucked away until the end of the day to satisfy other shoppers.

Spread the holiday cheer and keep these tips in mind before you embark on your shopping excursion. Save your money with the convenience of hand-held technology, save your gas by shopping online or calling ahead and, most importantly, save your breath before arguing with the retail employees who are probably more miserable than you.

Haley Rodriguez can be reached at [email protected] or @HaleyRod_ on Twitter.