Q: When the holiday season rolls around, I practically take up residence at the mall. There’s so much shopping I need to do, and the mall is the best place to pick up most of my gifts. And yet, the experience causes so many headaches—and it’s expensive! Is there a way to spend less at the mall and to make the entire experience more pleasant?
A: You’re not the only one who feels like skipping out on their mortgage this month and paying rent at the mall instead. In the weeks leading up to the holidays, the crowds at the mall can be as dense as the foot traffic on a street in Manhattan.
There’s more than just the thick crowds you have to battle at the mall, though. There’s also heavy manipulation by retailers priming you to overspend. Kit Yarrow, PhD and professor of psychology and marketing at Golden Gate University, says the red and green décor that covers the malls this time of year urges us to splurge. Red energizes us and green is perceived as an optimistic, lucky and wealthy color. Both colors will push us into going over budget.
The crowds and the endless spending can take a toll on anyone. No worries, though; we’ve got 10 incredible mall shopping hacks to make your trip a little easier on you and a bit lighter on your budget!
1. Map out a route
The less time you spend at the mall, the better off your budget will be. Before spending yet another afternoon roaming aimlessly until you find what you’re looking for, jot down a short list of your intended purchases before heading out and then create a route of the stores you’ll hit to look for them. Most malls offer a printable map on their websites to make this task a little easier.
Have your route pre-planned and do your budget a favor. As a bonus, you might even make it home headache-free!
2. Turn it up
Plug into your favorite playlist while scouring your favorite stores for fantastic finds. You’ll be calmer and less stressed—and a lot less likely to overspend.
3. Cash only
If you can’t seem to stick to a budget at the mall, leave the plastic at home and only bring along the amount of cash you plan on spending. It’s hard to feel the hole a swipe makes in your pocket but slipping the cashier a pile of bills actually feels like you’re spending money—and you’ll spend less of it. You’ll also be forced to stick to your budget no matter how tempted you are to overspend.
If you dare, consider only bringing newer, high-denomination bills, like 50s and 100s. You’ll think three times before breaking up those crisp, large bills.
4. Find the hidden cashier
Skip the endless lines in the bigger stores this holiday season by seeking out the cashiers set up in out-of-the-way spots of the store. You might find these quieter checkout lines in a far-off corner or near the fitting rooms. Zip in and out of the store in minutes!
5. Box it
When a cashier offers to box your purchases for you, say yes! It might mean a bit more time for you at the checkout, but you’ll get a head start on all that gift wrapping and save money on wrapping paper, too. Ask for a box even if your purchase isn’t a gift and then use it to wrap another gift item when you get home.
6. Shop late in the day
Skip the crazy crowds by shopping right before closing. The malls usually see the fewest shoppers during the late evening hours, so you’ll be able to shop quickly without jostling your way through the crowds.
Also, many stores stay open an extra hour after the mall closes in the weeks leading up to the holidays. Hit the mall first, and then shop the extended hours at the department stores to get a whole lot done in one stress-free trip.
7. Shop in heels
Leave your comfortable flats at home! A Brigham Young University study found that shoppers spent a lot less money when their minds were focused on staying balanced. If you don’t like teetering through the mall, you can hit the shops after a yoga class or after riding an escalator for a similar effect.
8. Don’t become fast friends with the checkout clerks
According to Forbes, shoppers tend to overspend when they feel a kinship with the cashier. Be cordial and be polite, but don’t get too chummy with the checkout clerks this season.
9. Carry a snapshot of your financial goal
What’s your financial dream? An Alaskan cruise? A luxury car? Print out a photo of your dream and stick it into your wallet. Pull it out whenever you’re tempted to bust your budget on a purchase and it will help you keep your mind on your goal.
10. Suck on a mint
Did you know that stores use scents to manipulate shoppers into spending more? Suck on a mint or chew a piece of mint-flavored gum to help you block out the store’s smells and stick to your budget.
Don’t get stressed or go broke at the mall this season! Follow our hacks for a budget-friendly and stress-free shopping trip.