Wassail! It's a holiday sale

Real Life

December 10, 2006|By Michelle Deal-Zimmerman | Michelle Deal-Zimmerman,Sun Reporter

I believe Christmas shopping is not for the faint of heart. No, it is for the warriors.

There are a few keys to victory: You must have a written plan and a strategy for success. Above all, you must stay the course. You cannot cut and run, no matter how many people are waiting in line at the store.

If you do, someone else will be walking away with your special buy and there will be no rainchecks available.

Tried-and-true veterans of holiday shopping, like myself, begin planning their campaign around Thanksgiving. (If you start your holiday shopping in January, you are not a warrior. You are a pacifist.) With the right strategy, you can join the battle any time this month.

So if you don't know what to do with the stack of advertising circulars that lands on your driveway with the thud of a very big tree falling in the forest, I can help you.

Plan of attack

First, make a list of the gifts to be given. I think of it as targets to hit. You can't win if you don't know what you're fighting for.

I like a specific list with a lot of options. For instance, if my niece wants a sparkly, pink Gap T-shirt, I will ask if there's another color she likes. (She's 16, so the answer is usually no answer.)

Second, don't let anyone else near the newspaper. The contents will help you map out your ground war on holiday sales. Be careful, the pages can be slippery and allowing just a single sheet to slip from your grasp could mean the loss of an early-bird savings.

Next, divide and conquer the sales papers. No use wasting time looking at a computer store's sale if you don't have any computers on your list. Concentrate on the stores that you are most familiar with and that offer the items on your list. Look for midnight specials, one-time savings, coupons and rebates.

If it's not on sale, why buy it? After all, that's what the holidays are about. Sales. (Forgive me, Jesus. I wrote it, but I didn't mean it.)

Once you've identified where you will shop, match up each target on your list to the appropriate store. Also, staple together the necessary sales circulars and keep them with you at all times. I usually drop mine in the glove box. It's a great reference and a reminder that you are at war, but it's OK because you have a plan.

Now it's time for the air war. By air, I mean high-speed, high-definition or broadband. This can be the key to a speedy shopping victory. If you've never bought gifts online or from a shopping network using bill-to, send-to, you're not using all of the weapons at your disposal. If there are any targets on your list that can be acquired online or on cable for about the same price, I say take to the air. You will soar.

Navigating the ground is, by far, the most difficult engagement. There are just too many warrior wannabes milling around the malls. These people have no real plan. They are not aware they are on the battlefield or else they wouldn't spend 20 minutes looking at the same scarf. They might buy that sweater, the last one in the size you need for your list - or they might not.

Use your resources

Remain calm. Remember, allies are important to any war and these neophytes present the perfect opportunity to capture extra savings. Here's how: Engage the person next to you in line - "Oh, I love that color. Are you buying that for a gift?" Then, share strategy, somewhat loudly. "I think you can save 40 percent with a coupon, but I forgot mine in the car." It being the season to share, there's a good chance someone nearby will hear you and offer to help.

There's also an equally good chance that your hint will be met with a steely gaze. A tightening of posture and stance. You should recognize that look.

It's a fellow warrior.

Chances are she's not taking any prisoners, so I suggest you high-tail it back to the car to get your own coupon. After all, you don't want to become a shopping casualty.

Lastly, remember, when the season is over, lay down your arms. Don't dwell on small defeats. It's when you see a loved one's joy in the spoils of victory - toys, sweaters and techno gadgets - that you know you've really won.

michelle.deal@baltsun.com

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