Shopping at the mall is way, way stressful, from a week before Black Friday through New Year's. I sometimes think that gift card popularity grew due to the fact that mall shopping, especially at last minute, can cause a breakdown worthy of an asylum stay. Even if you are an Olympic-level shopaholic, the mall at the holiday season is super stressful and is not akin to peace on earth, especially if you're shopping last minute. So if you are forced to head to the mall during the holiday home stretch, due to your procrastination, a surprise Secret Santa, or someone you weren't expecting to get a gift for suddenly showing up on your list, there are several things you can do to make the experience bearable at the very least and semi-pleasant at most.
Yes, I am serious. This is not as hard as it sounds. You just have to prepare for it as if you were a soldier going to war. You have to be mentally strong. The holidays can bring out the gnarly and snarly in people, so you need to look out for you and only you. And your shopping list, of course.
Follow these 10 preparatory and on-site tips and you will emerge victorious and with all your limbs and sanity in tact, and no sourpusses on Christmas morning. You might need to throw back a few mugs of spiked eggnog after the fact, but that's part of the, uh, fun.
1. Pack Lightly
Don't weigh yourself down with extra stuff. Carry a small crossbody with only essentials, keeping your money and your lists close at hand to avoid losing them or to falling victim to pickpockets. Not all is merry and bright during the season. Thieves are out too, so stay safe.
2. Safety In Numbers
Employ the buddy system. Bring a friend, since you may be parking in Timbuktu, so it's more fun to make the trek across a parking lot in the cold with someone to BS with. The shopping buddy can also offer their opinion on things you may be buying and vice versa. It's better to be in chains with friends than in a garden by yourself.
3. Valet It If You Can
Bring a few bucks to spend on valet, if it's offered, which is often the case at the more upscale malls. That should trim off some stress off your day, plus help you avoid any close quarters fender benders.
4. Fuel Up
This has nothing to do with your car. Eat beforehand. Don't deal with the lines, the chaos, and the empty calories of the Food Court or waiting in a-45-minute-to-an-hour-long line for Maggianos, Olive Garden, or Applebees. Head to the mall pre-fueled and you won't be distracted by hunger pains. You have a singular mission: to shop.
5. Savings First
Check for online coupons or print circulars for any and all steals and deals. Stores will want to liquidate holiday stock if it's really close to Christmas Day and you can enjoy big savings if you prep wisely.
6. Make A List
Santa seriously knows what's up. Make a list. Follow said list to the last bullet point. Be totally selfless. Don't stop at your favorite stores to check out some items for yourself. Narrow your focus to laser-like precision and shop only for those on your list. Hit only the stores that sell what you are looking for. If you need to get body lotions for Mom, there is no need to be at the Gap checking out skinnies for you — it'll only distract you, adding to that frantic feeling of making no progress.
Bring a bottle of water with you. You will be on a mission and need to replenish. Malls are notoriously super hot during the cold months and you don't need to lose fluids sweating while wearing your bulky jacket.
8. Tune Everyone Out
Prepare yourself for loud, screaming children. It's like traveling at the airport. Don't let it get you down or distract you. Headphones while shopping is totally legit, just be sure to take them out when you hit the register. You wouldn't want to come off as rude.
9. Dress Comfortably
Ditch heels for booties, flats, or even Converse. You will be likely be stressed and rushed and heels are for the dance floor, party, or office, not for focused shopping. You don't need to twist your ankle or get blisters.
10. Make Back Up Plans
Don't be afraid to give up and get gift cards if the perfect present eludes you. Some people think that gift cards as impersonal and thoughtless. Personally, I think they are extra thoughtful, as they allow the recipient to get whatever the hell they want. Good luck, everyone!
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