Chronic Pain Holiday Survival Tips
I used to love browsing through the stores during the holidays, looking for just the right gift for family and friends. Unfortunately these days, shopping quickly turns into an adventure in pain. Quarter-mile treks across full parking lots, crowds of people bumping into me, and 30 minute waits in long check-out lines are nightmares experiences I try to avoid at all cost. After many painful holiday seasons, I've gathered 20 time, money and pain saving tips to make holiday shopping more bearable – and sometimes even fun.
1. Like Santa, make a list. Having a list of everyone you need a gift for and what you want to give them, helps cut down on impulse buys that will wreck your budget.
2. Shop online as much as possible. You can shop any time of day or night and you don't even have to get dressed – you can shop in your pjs or even your birthday suit if you like.
3. Shop during non-peak hours. If you do have to go to a store for something, try not to go when everyone else will be there – like weekends.
4. Shop early. Start your holiday shopping as early as possible. The longer you wait, the more likely stores will run out of what you want and you'll have to go multiple places searching for it or settle for something else.
5. Place online or catalog orders early. Be sure to place your orders early enough to take advantage of their least expensive shipping option. You'll pay a hefty price for express or overnight shipping.
6. Stay home on Black Friday. Even before chronic pain came into my life, I made it a policy not to leave my house the day after Thanksgiving. No “deal” is big enough to be worth putting myself in the midst of the insanity that happens in retail stores on that day. You're likely to be pushed, shoved and possibly even trampled – none of which is going to help your pain.
7. Read sale ads carefully. Some ads may say “quantities limited,” “no rain checks,” or “not available at all stores.” Before you make the trip, call to be sure the item you want is in stock.
8. Learn store policies. Whether you're shopping online, by catalog or in person, find out what the stores policies are. What are their refund and return policies? Will they match or beat a competitor's price? If you buy an item at regular price and it goes on sale the next week, can you get a refund for the discounted amount?
9. Comparison shop online. Even if you plan to go to the store to make the purchase, do as much comparison shopping as you can on the Internet in the comfort of your home. Pretty much every major store has an online counterpart. You'll save yourself running store to store comparing prices.
10. Buy online – Pick up in person. A lot of stores offer free shipping if you order online, then pick your package up at the store. That allows you to skip the crowds and go straight to customer service where your pre-paid package will be waiting.
11. Wear comfortable, supportive shoes. Walking on concrete parking lots and tile and marble floors can be painful enough. Poor quality or ill-fitting shoes will only add to that pain.
12. Leave the heavy purse at home. A heavy handbag slung over one shoulder is a good way to increase your pain level significantly. Settle for a small, lightweight purse that slips over your arm.
13. Swallow your pride and ride. Most malls and large stores have motorized scooters. If being on your feet and walking increases your pain, take advantage of the scooters.
14. Give gift cards. Save yourself a lot of guesswork and hassle and give gift cards, especially to teachers, newspaper carriers and others you don't know well. Most stores and restaurants offer gift cards, so you have a wide variety to choose from. And the big discount stores like WalMart carry gift cards for all kinds of different restaurants and stores, so you can buy all your gift cards in one spot.
15. Trim your gift list. With the current economic problems, this is a good year to talk with the adults on your holiday gift list about possibly not exchanging gifts at all, or at least significantly cutting back on the quantity and cost. My friends and I decided that instead of exchanging gifts, we'd set aside a day and go out to lunch.
16. Shop only with online merchants you trust. Remember anyone can set up an online “store.” If you're not familiar with a merchant, check them out on a site like BizRate.com to find out other people's experiences with them. Or try Googling the store's name to see if anyone has commented on them pro or con.
17. Never buy anything advertised through an unsolicited e-mail. They're almost always scams.
18. Check for coupons and promotion codes. Before going to any store or placing any online order, see if you can find a coupon or a promo code for them. Just Google the name of the store and the word “coupon: or the words “promotion code” (no quotes). There are tons of sites that keep an ongoing list of special offers you can take advantage of. You can find a lot of great deals, especially around the holidays.
19. Go online for out-of-town gift giving. Save yourself the hassle of wrapping gifts, packaging them up, then standing in line to ship them. If you order online, you can have the gift sent directly to the recipient. Most merchants offer gift wrapping for a small fee. Or consider sending flowers, cheese or a fruit basket.
20. Pace yourself. Try not to wait until the last minute to shop, when the holiday chaos is likely to get the best of you. Stress generally increases pain, so try to pace yourself and do a little at a time – starting now.