Don’t be a scrooge, be cheap this Christmas season

You can hear the music and see the lights and decorations, so there’s no denying that the holiday season is near. Among the carol singing, eggnog drinking and mistletoe kissing, one of the major attractions this winter is (as always) gift exchanging! Unless you have connections with one of Santa’s elves, your poor and barely surviving wallet is going to take the hit. But have no fear, because if you take advantage of these money saving tips, the holidays can still be merry even if your wallet is starving!

Santa Carrying Shopping Bags

1. Don’t run from the word “clearance”:
Most people pay little or no attention to the racks located at the back of a store. You know, the ones with clothes and items that have little red tags placed over their original price? Some people even believe clothes that happen to be on the clearance rack are somehow damaged or of cheaper quality. However, that silly thought is false. Clearance items are simply clothes that have been on the floor for a while, not necessarily out of style, but not exactly one of the store’s newest arrivals. Why not save 50 per cent on that sweater for your sister? You’re still getting the same great quality as the one in the front, just maybe in last season’s colour.

2. Check out the off-price department stores:
Miraculously, there are whole stores that are dedicated to selling name brand and good quality items for discounted prices! And no, it doesn’t have to be your local thrift store. These stores usually go by the name of Winners, Labels and now Marshalls, which recently arrived to Canada from the States.

3. Constantly read those flyers:
Remember how back in the day, inside your local newspaper, came those colourful and vibrant flyers highlighting store’s weekly deals? That still happens! So keep a look out for flyers and take the time to flip through them. You never know, that camera your dad badly wanted might be on sale!

4. Sign up for online newsletters sent straight to your email:
If hard copies aren’t your thing anymore, then visit the websites of stores and scroll right to the bottom. There you should find a box where you can insert your email address to receive emails in your area of interest. These emails not only illustrate the latest fashion and newest items available but also mention insider sales and possibly coupons!

5. Use social networking sites to find out the latest and greatest deals:
If you don’t want your inbox being flooded with newsletters, there is still a chance to find out about the latest deals. Facebook and Twitter are some of the sites that not only offer you a chance to creep your ex, but also let you “like” and follow your favourite stores that constantly post exclusive coupons and information on sales. Twitter accounts such as @RedFlagDeals have deals conveniently displayed on your newsfeed. By following one, if not all, of these shopping tips, you’ll be able to save a whole lot of money when buying gifts. And with all that extra cash, you can buy yourself the gift you really wanted, but nobody thought of. It’s a win-win for everyone!

@Naomi_ML

Shopping Ettiquette 101

For retail employees, Thanksgiving and Christmas are not the most wonderful times of the year. As a sales associate who’s been folding clothes and cashing out items for the past four years of my life, I picture crowded malls, long lines, cranky customers and Hilary Duff’s version of “Last Christmas” playing 12 times in one day instead of the usual holiday cheer like chestnuts roasting by an open fire, jingle bells, and happiness. Now I’m pretty sure anyone who’s worked at the mall during this time can agree. If customers followed some simple rules that really are common courtesy, then maybe it can be a wonderful time for everyone. So I’ve put together a helpful and sarcastic (I’m not this mean people) list to help you shopaholics out.

1. Look, but try not to touch.

Sure, go ahead and unfold that graphic tee if you’re actually interested in purchasing it. But please, don’t walk down every aisle brushing your hand through clothes like you’re petting a row of puppies and unnecessarily making a mess. If you need a size, instead of pulling a pair of pants from the bottom as all others fly away, ask an associate to help you out. Also don’t try and use the “high reach poles” to get your own size from the rack (you need a license to handle that). It’s for your own safety, seriously.

2. Stay away from the table the employee is cleaning.
For the past hour that post-tornado of a table that once used to display nicely folded t-shirts stood untouched. Of course, as soon as a sales associate decides to tackle it and is one t-shirt away from achieving the impossible aka bringing the display back to its pristine shape, a swarm of customers come in like a pack of hungry bees.
Bottom line: If you see an employee working hard at cleaning something, don’t just come by and grab the item that they were about to fold out of their hand, or mess up the table right in front of them. Have the courtesy to at least try and pretend you’re not purposely trying to be the Tasmanian devil or ask them for the size you want.

3. If you drop something, pick it up.
Don’t think I didn’t see you knock over that sale sign with your giant suitcase purse, only to hear the sound of something crash behind you, look back, stare at the fallen object for a good five seconds, do a quick (and totally suspicious looking) scan making sure no one saw you and walk away. Seriously, just take the five seconds to bend down, pick up what you dropped and put it in it’s rightful place. Unless your clumsy self bumped over a mannequin, then run call a store employee over.

4. Find your manners and then use them.
Think of that old aunt you see every holiday that loves to pinch cheeks and say with a nasally voice, “Where’s your manners young lady/mister?” I’d recommend the golden rule of treating others the way you want to be treated but some people clearly like being a victim of Regina George. Say hello back to that overtly friendly employee greeting you at the front door, say thank you to the one who just climbed a really tall and scary ladder to get you your shoe size and say please when asking if you can have a fitting room. If you’re nice, I’ll definitely do my best to help you, but if you decide to get all Mean Girls on me then oops, I may or may not have charged you regular price for that belt that was secretly on sale.

5. Don’t ask for the employee discount if you’re not an employee.
This isn’t a car dealership where “everyone” gets the employee discount. This also isn’t a flea market or garage sale where you can bargain prices with me. I can’t and I definitely won’t give you 40% off just because you lean over the till and flash me a smile that tells me you haven’t been to the dentist in years. If you want to be cheap, I will gladly give you directions to the nearest dollar store.

6. Have your decisions made and your wallet ready when you reach the cash register.
Cashiers aren’t personal stylists who will spend hours with you deciding which color and size to get. The worst lines we hear sound something like this: “I don’t want this anymore, never mind I’ll get, wait can you get me a size small, actually I’ll take that medium, you know what I don’t want it, why’d you take that out I wanna get that.” If you haven’t made a final decision on what you do and do not want, get out of the line because you’re not only making the cashier upset but the dozen or so people lined up behind you. Also a great help would be having your method of payment out and ready, whether it’s cash, credit or debit. Am I the only one who hears the Jeopardy theme song playing while people take ten minutes to search through their purse to pull out a water bottle, makeup case, lotion bottle, pack of gum, teacup dog before actually finding their wallet?

So take a hint from some of these tips and help make this holiday season a jolly one for everyone!

Note: these are not the views of my employer, just mine, and every retail employee who suffers through the Black Friday/Christmas shopping season as well.

@Naomi_ML