Think you can’t avoid the shopping frenzy of the holiday season? You might be one of those shoppers who want to wait to capitalize on holiday sales to get that big screen TV you have your heart set on or you might be the king or queen of procrastinating and prefer to wait until the last minute to accomplish things on your list. Either way, with preparation, you can improve your shopping efficiency and effectiveness so that you can better fulfill your wish lists. As with other errands, it’s key to do your homework before heading out so you can save time, money, and your sanity. These 5 last-minute holiday shopping hacks will help you get through the frenzy of this holiday shopping season:
Compare prices before going to the store
‘Tis the season for holiday shopping, but don’t leave the house unless you’re prepared because malls and stores will be packed. First, write down the items you want to buy and use your smartphone as a price-comparison tool. Mobile apps like Amazon Price Check, Shelfbucks, and ShopSavvy let you compare prices on thousands of products. And many retailers will lower their price to match a competitor’s, so show them (on your phone).
Secondly, consider using coupon apps such as Ibotta, SavingStar, and Checkout 51. Printable coupon sites found online include Coupons.com and SmartSource. If shipping costs weigh on your mind, sign up for a 30-day trial of Amazon Prime, which offers free two-day shipping on eligible items.
Guarantee your access to limited items
The retail industry is implementing various practices to improve their customers’ buying experiences, so take advantage. For instance, Best Buy, and other big retailers, are issuing color-coded tickets to ensure that customers get the products they came for. Check out your retailer’s website and print these tickets so you won’t waste time staring at “Sold Out” signs. And call the store in advance to see if a certain product is available. Some outlets will let you reserve an item if you give them your information.
Preparation is key, or you could leave the parking lot with nothing in tow. According to a 2015 study by Box Technologies, more than one-third (38 percent) of UK shoppers leave the store empty-handed because of long checkout lines, and 24 percent of respondents said five minutes is as long as they are prepared to wait before leaving without purchasing anything.
Digitize your transactions
Swiping at the counter makes checkout much faster and more convenient. If you’re a cardholder, consider using mobile payment technology, such as Apple Pay or Capital One Wallet, to digitize your transactions. These payment technologies are designed to make beginning-to-end shopping a seamless and integrated experience. A mobile wallet avoids a paper trail of receipts, gift cards, and warranty cards that can easily get lost in the holiday shuffle, and conversely, a digital trail facilitates product returns, refunds, gift exchanges and other transactions more easily.
A study by Capital One finds that nearly half (48 percent) of mobile wallet users plan to make at least one gift purchase through this technology — reflecting the growing adoption of mobile wallet. Capital One’s version helps shoppers get instant purchase notifications on their mobile device the moment their credit card is used, lock their card through their phone, as well as, digitize receipts and multiple gift cards at one time.
Experts predict that mobile wallet will see record use this holiday season. It offers better security and retailers can store loyalty rewards and other enticements on your smartphone. Mobile accounts for over half (56 percent) of online store visits during the 2016 holidays, according to Adobe Digital Insights.
Get help from shopping assistants
Target, Kohl’s, and Walmart are a few retailers who are providing “holiday helpers” to assist customers with shopping tasks, such as looking for related items and comparing similar products. In-store helpers can also go back to the aisles to fetch forgotten goods as the customer waits at the checkout line.
Store assistants are helpful in multiplying your shopping efficiency. While there are other considerations in choosing which retailer you’ll patronize, you should call a store and see if they offer assistance to shoppers. When a store is crowded, frustrations can run high. A Box Technologies survey finds that 38 percent of shoppers leave the store empty-handed if they wait nine minutes or longer at the checkout line.
Protect yourself from scams
ACI Worldwide predicts that online fraud attempts during this holiday season will rise by 43 percent in the US. The FBI recommends creating long passwords to protect your digital accounts from hackers. Experts suggest multi-word passwords such as “mycatisfurry” or “mywifelakersfan” that involve facts about your daily life that only you would know.
And be weary of gift card scams, which become more common the closer it is to Christmas Eve. Gift cards are an alluring target for fraudsters because they can be easily resold. Ask the retailer if they have security measures involving gift cards, such as PIN numbers, scratch-off labels, magnetic strips, and activation of the card when the gift recipient redeems it (as opposed to immediately activating the card when the customer buys it).
Holiday shopping is anything but jolly. But with preparation, you can overcome the rush and make fulfilling your wish lists a more enjoyable experience.
Featured photo credit: Picjumbo via picjumbo.com