Shop But Don’t Drop: 9 tips for saner shopping

It’s that time of year again: The cold air carries the  scent of Fraser firs and cinnamon, and you find yourself wanting to stay cozied in your house with an old Jimmy Stewart flick.

This is why the idea of holiday shopping may raise your stress level a bit. Your free time should be full of baking and singing, not sprinting down store aisles like a fullback trying to grab the last cute sweater on clearance.

Believe it or not, it is possible to have a serene shopping experience during this time of year.

With the help of Beth Downey, personal shopper and owner of Can Do! Concierge Inc., of Cary, we have compiled the best tips to keep you sane as you gather your gifts.

1. Find your “one stop-shop” for the whole family. Whether it is a local boutique, or a department store, this will save you the hassle of running around to various shopping centers. Choose a store to meet your budget, and one with a wide array of gifts for all ages and genders.

Left Photo Caption: Make a list and check it twice, but Downey advises always having an extra gift on hand for “unexpected surprises.”

2. Start shopping early. Always be sure, however, to know the store’s return policy in case you change your mind about a purchase.

“You don’t want to buy a gift in July and then find out that the merchandise is past the return or exchange date if you go to return it after Christmas,” Downey said. “Most stores will extend their standard return time before the holidays.”

3. Give with your heart. While there may not be a hard and fast rule of gift giving, many assume it’s all about the price.

“The art of giving involves following your heart. Giving should be a reflective and meaningful endeavor and not one solely based in rules and etiquette,” Downey explained. If the gift you are thinking about giving feels comfortable to you budget-wise and on heart  level, you know you are heading in the right direction.

4. Look for the sales. Sales are everywhere at all times of the year, so pay attention to newspaper, magazine and online ads to be sure you know when you’ll get the best deals. can help take a lot of the fuss out of price comparison, and will locate the least expensive version of the item you desire.  

Of course, you could put on your protective gear and brave Black Friday, “but if you value your life, beware of the chaos that ensues when hundreds of people make a mad dash for a store offering a limited amount of items at a great price,” Downey cautioned.

5. Pick a shopping center that has everything. “There are many fine specialty shops spread throughout Cary,” Downey noted, “but I think the place that has the largest amount of stores in one area with the most variety is Crossroads on Walnut Street.”

By saving yourself the trouble of driving all around town, you will preserve your sanity and be able to focus on finding those perfect gifts.

6. Always have an extra gift. We have all been there; we have a set list of people we buy gifts for, and then someone unexpected surprises us with something nice. These are the times to either have an extra gender-friendly gift all wrapped and ready, or resort to a re-gifted gift.

“Some people think that this is a very distasteful way of giving, but if the gift is appropriate, I don’t think there is anything wrong with it and it’s a good way to recycle,” Downey said.

7. Create a budget, and stick to it. Take some time to count how many gifts you are ideally planning to buy. Calculate how much they will cost and make sure you feel comfortable with the final amount. Although it may be hard once you see that cashmere sweater your mother would love, stick to the budget!  

“It is so easy to fudge a little here and there, but when the credit card bills start coming in there will consequences to pay,” Downey warned.

8. Consider shopping online. A way to save both time and money, online shopping may be the fix to every busy shopper’s problems! And online doesn’t have to mean chain store; many locally-owned shops offers online shopping too.  

Then, rather than braving crazed traffic to get to an already crowded store, save gas and enjoy the luxury of sitting back and relaxing in your home while browsing through gift options.

9. Remember the purpose. Though sometimes forgotten amid hustle and bustle, holiday shopping should reflect the more meaningful purpose of celebrating the joy and spirit of the season.

“Sometimes it seems like one big frenetic dance,” said Downey. “But be reminded to step back and reflect on whether or not the holidays are about getting and giving the biggest, most expensive gifts or being present in the moment with family and friends and giving the present of presence.”

Can Do! Concierge Inc., Cary

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