12/19/2012 11:45 EST | Updated 02/18/2013 05:12 EST

The Dos and Don't of Last-Minute Holiday Shopping

with Christmas chomping down on my heels, I've been doing quick trips to random stores in an effort to pick up those oh-so-perfect gifts for my family members. Now that I've done some legwork, I'm comfortable in providing you with some tips for holiday shopping when you've left it down to the wire. Here are some dos and don'ts.


With Christmas literally right around the corner, I can't even handle how my master plan for the holidays came to a crash. I tried so hard to be a huge Grinch this year but was thwarted at every turn.

I sat everyone in my family down and told them that because of my lack of funds (and patience) I wouldn't be buying gifts this year. My exact words were "Don't buy me anything because I won't be buying you anything." They were all incredulous and skeptical but I thought we had come to an understanding.

Apparently not.

So, with Christmas chomping down on my heels, I've been doing quick trips to random stores in an effort to pick up those oh-so-perfect gifts for my family members who apparently don't follow instructions too well.

Luckily for me, I was presented with the opportunity to check out the early stages of the newly redesigned Square One mall. Equipped with brighter corridors, better stores and shops and more places to stop for food, it's just a nicer environment to shop in. Especially when your go-to mall is usually Vaughan Mills (I live near there so I'm allowed to nag).

Now that I've done some legwork, I'm comfortable in providing you with some tips for holiday shopping when you've left it down to the wire.

Do: Make a list of what you're looking for.

Not one salesperson I encountered was amused when I kept saying "This is perfect! But I'm going to keep looking just in case I find something MORE perfect!" If you write down an idea or some semblance of what you'd like to get each friend and family member, you won't be torturing yourself with what else you could have found.

Don't: Start shopping for yourself.

...Like I did. Because I'm soulless. I know it might be hard because everything in stores is awesome right now (thanks a lot, retailers) but you have to fight the temper-tantrum-having four-year-old inside you who wants those oxblood pants because she's been an angel this past week and even gave a can to that drive-thing and she totally deserves them! Jeez she's so bitchy around the holidays. Maybe get her some sugar cookies while you're at it.

Do: Try a new mall.

Prior to this shopping trip, I'd actually never been to Square One. Preconceived notions aside, Square One was completely different than what I had envisioned and thanks to its remodelling it had all the stores I needed to hit. Part of the issue with holiday shopping is that you can feel like you've exhausted your options for the perfect gift. Open up your range of shops and get a fresh perspective on the best places to melt your credit card at.

Don't: Kid yourself about your size.

A karmic backlash that stemmed from 'holiday shopping' turned into 'me shopping' found me stuck in a smaller-than-small dress that I was so sure I could squeeze into. I knew the second I wriggled it over my head that it was a doomed experiment but I continued. Long story short, it took almost six minutes of pulling, stretching, and pure contortion to get it the hell off. I was sweaty, red faced and all "is this what claustrophobia feels like?" Just grab the size up.

Do: Set a limit on spending.

Or at least try. Keep track of your bills and how much you've spent and how close you're getting to your limit. But if you see something that NEEDS to be purchased and will kick you over that budget just a teensy bit, don't worry. We've all been there.

Don't: Get so distracted by the cashier's cool hair that you leave a purchase behind.

I mean....hypothetically, or whatever. But in my defence, the woman in Zara had the EXACT shade of white-blond that I had tried to achieve five years ago! Like exactly! Until all my hair fell out and I was forced into a pixie cut. Don't cry for me shopaholics, after a quick-tearful call, my bag was found and is currently being kept safe until I get my butt over there.

Do: Buy things in bulk.

Especially from the multitude of smaller, privately owned booths that litter the walkways of malls like Square One. Not only are you guaranteed to be given a much more attentive shopping experience but there's a better chance they will throw in initiatives for you to purchase. In the form of sweet little freebies. Just try not to leave them on a store counter. Sigh.

Don't: Drink too much coffee.

After three cups I was literally buzzing through the mall. Sounds were louder, colours were brighter and for some reason I was practically sprinting through stores. Keep hydrated with water, bring a cold bottle with you. It may be chilly outside but with huge amounts of people in each other's personal space inside, it's going to get really hot, really fast.

Do: Figure out what stores you want to hit.

If you know you're going to a specific mall, look up what stores they have and where exactly they're located. Having a decisive plan of action is never a bad thing. You don't want to be one of those zombie shoppers who are so in over their head that they wander aimlessly trying to remember if they saw an H&M somewhere. I myself totally forgot that Square One opened an Express and so I missed it completely. Damnit me!

Don't: Give salespeople attitude.

Snipping a sarcastic "I get how a line works, thanks*" to a salesgirl probably isn't the best way to ensure great customer service. I know we all love to put the blame on high school age girls who come complete with bored-to-death eyeballs but I can admit that I contribute to a shoddy experience once in a while. Just remember that they likely want to be where they are even less than you do. So empathize.

*Okay yes, that snark was WAY rude but I apologized right after.*

**Okay I didn't apologize but trust me she was snarky first! I actually DO know how a lineup works!

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