1. Develop a plan of attack
Make a schedule of what time you’ll shop at which stores. Stores tend to offer different deals depending on the time of day–and many times, they’re only good during a specific range of hours. If two or more stores are offering deals during the same range of hours, prioritize which store you’ll visit first to based on which items are most important to you.
The easiest way to check sale times is often online, as most larger stores now post their sales fliers online on their website. Alternatively, check your local newspaper for inserts.
2. Eat a good breakfast
You get up at 3 a.m., haul your two kids out to Toys R US, and WHAMMO!–you collapse to your knees within the first half-hour of shopping because all you had for breakfast was a few sips of coffee. And your poor kids–they’re chewing on their Gameboy’s, they’re so hungry. Seriously, shopping can be physically exhausting, enough–don’t make it worse on yourself by forgetting to eat a good meal before you join the fray.
3. Offer a reward
When you start the day, offer the kids a bribe if they put up with your day of shopping with just a modicum of complaining. Cash usually works for the older ones. A movie or a trip to Chuck-E-Cheeses may work better for slightly younger youth. (Okay–maybe cash would work with them, as well. )
4. Enlist their help
OK, this works better if the gifts aren’t for THEM–but in this case, you could always just bring along a large, bulky coat to throw over the pile until you get to the cash register. At that point, you simply inform them that they must look in the other direction until everything is paid for and bagged–and if they happen to see anything, it goes back. I’ve been using this method for years, and it works great.
As kids to help plan out your gift purchases in advance while you’re sifting through online or newspaper ads. Once in the store, you can let them “lead the way” to find certain items. They can help load the conveyor belt for you. Hey, they could even stand in line for you while you run back to get that one last item you forgot! (Just kidding about this last one.)
5. Bring an adult friend
Better yet, bring an adult friend whose child is friends with yours. The youngsters can talk and play with each other to keep their young minds occupied while you’re obsessing over which color case to get for your older son’s Nintendo DS XL.
(Notice I didn’t suggest bringing a spouse? That’s because they usually hate this kind of stuff, and they’ll likely be more pouty than the kinds.) But seriously, having another adult along will make bathroom breaks and trips to the food court much easier. You could also split the shopping tasks up between you and hit two stores at a time–just make sure you both have cell phones turned on so you can let each other know when each shopping objective has been completed.
6. Schedule regular breaks
and take them! At least every hour, schedule breaks to use the bathroom, get a refreshing drink, much on some chicken tenders, and rest everyone’s feet. Shopping will be so much easier–and enjoyable–if the kids realize it’s not going to be some kind of non-stop marathon.
7. Schedule a fun activity
Before you start, tell the kids what time the shopping excursion will be over–and give them something to look forward to. Something THEY like to do.
8. Stick to your plan
If you start deviating from the road map you’ve so carefully devised for yourself–pushing the group longer than you planned before taking much needed breaks, for example–or Santa-forbid, trying to skip them altogether. Remember, you don’t want to look back on this holiday experience with the kids and remember how you broke your word. Not to mention, things will be so much nicer if you’re good to yourself and the little ones along the way.
9. Let them bring something to do
Clearly, you don’t want your little one to be caught with his Superman figure as your group walks out of Toys R Us–although if it’s well-used looking, this probably won’t make a difference, but you get my point. But try to let the kids bring something to do. If they’re old enough, a word search book might come in handy–or a special pad of paper purchased just for this day will make the kids feel extra-special.
10. Bring a handy snack
If you have picky eaters with you, bring along a snack they’ll enjoy that’s easy to transport. Single serving containers of all natural applesauce is one good choice. (Just don’t forget the spoon!) Real fruit leather fruit snacks, spreadable cheese and cracker packs, tiny pickles or carrots in a plastic zipper baggie might be other options, depending on the age of the children. And don’t forget bottles of water or 100 percent juice boxes.
Remember, these snacks aren’t intended as a replacement for the regular breaks you have scheduled, nor will they take the place of a nice, healthy lunch–but they may help keep things under control between breaks, or if a child has a sudden hunger pang (which, lets face it, can come right out of the blue.)
11. Shop online instead!
Ditch all the shop till you drop mania in the stores and buy online! Lots of retailers offer online specials for Black Friday shoppers; some even offer online-only specials. And some shopping markets such as Amazon.comare exclusively online.
Amazon.com has some particularly good deals the entire week of Black Friday. They’ve kept their normal Gold Box and Lightning Deals. The special week of Black Friday Deals are staggered throughout the day and, like the standard Lightning Deals,are extremely limited duration.
To get the best “haul,” some shoppers hang out by their computer most of the day while working on projects around the house. This might seem like a lot to go through just to save money, but when you consider the alternative–spending hour after hour stuck in traffic and jamming into the same store as thousands of other shoppers–it seems well worth it. Especially considering the percentage discounts on Amazon are way higher than those usually found at most brick and mortar establishments.
And the kids will have a lot more fun watching Thanksgiving specials on TV while you shop online than hanging out at the mall all day.