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Don’t be a douchebag…and other rules for surviving last-minute shopping

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Do you need rules for surviving last-minute shopping? I don't have all the answers but I'm here to help…or at least make you feel better about your level of procrastination. I have last-minute shopping tips that will help you survive those last-minute shopping trips.

Every year, I say I will organize my life by December 1. I’ll have Christmas all figured out before Thanksgiving. I’ll shop throughout the year when I see stuff that might make a good stocking stuffer.


We’ll order holiday cards by August…I mean, c’mon. Everyone likes posing in Christmas jammies at 90 degrees outside, right?

Surviving last-minute shopping trips with these last-minute shopping tips

Last minute santa.
Photo: Deposit Photos.

My shopping will be organized. Timely. Last-minute trips to Walmart for forgotten ingredients? That stuff happens to other people. My baking will be done by mid-December and everyone remotely connected to me will receive cute little DIY containers of homemade yumminess.

December 20th will find me kicking back and relaxing in front of my tree watching Hallmark Christmas movies and sipping hot cocoa…and not that instant stuff, either.

Okay, back to reality.

My reality:

I’m just starting my Christmas shopping on December 20th;

I don’t think about cards until it’s pretty much too late to mail them;

I remember the week before Christmas I’m supposed to make Christmas dinner.

I don’t plan. I procrastinate. I don’t make cutesy-poo DIY cookie containers. Or lists.

It’s four days before Christmas and all through my house? I’m clicking like a madwoman on Amazon Prime trying to buy gifts. I’m dumping items from my to-do list and sucking up the idea of shortcuts…no one will really be able to tell the mashed potatoes came from a box, right? Maybe don’t answer that.

Related post: 25 Super Easy Christmas Crafts for Kids

While I vow every year to not procrastinate, I’m a last-minute girl. I half-ass a few things but I manage to get it all done. Although I’m happy to see December 26th roll around, I usually manage to get through Christmas. I even managed to enjoy it.

But my lack of planning and my procrastination predisposition landed me in Target, Walmart and my local grocery stores several times between December 20th and December 24th (several defined as no less than 10 trips.) Since I’m unorganized and don’t make a list, I go to the store to buy ginger and come out with 30 other things that are not ginger. This drives another trip back to the store for ginger. It’s a vicious cycle.

Related post: Got a traveler on your list? Skip the store and check out this great gift guide for kids who travel

I always say I will change and be more organized but I know deep down I won’t change and that my unorganized style of doing things is just part of how the holidays work for me. But my last-minute ways have taught me this:

People are jerks at the grocery store in December.

I mean, some people are just jerks all the time and we know that. But shopping in December seems to bring out the inner beast in so many people.  This is supposed to be the season of giving, right? We’re supposed to be all tidings of comfort and joy and holly jolly but crowded parking lots and long lines turn perfectly pleasant humans into complete boneheads.

If you’re a poor planner like me and find yourself braving the stores in late December, keep these simple rules for surviving last-minute holiday shopping in mind:

1. It will take twice as long as you think it will take

There’s no such thing as a quick trip to the store in December. Heavier traffic, congested parking lots and everybody else who left stuff to the last minute is in the store with you. It doesn’t matter if you’re just going for one thing: you’ll be competing for airspace with people who are doing their full Christmas shopping.

The lady who is pushing her grocery cart at the speed of molasses has absolutely no obligation to make way for your hot mess self just because you forgot you needed those French fried onion thingies for the green bean casserole. You might be in a hurry but everyone else who's not in a hurry is not required to accommodate you.

2. You’ll have to troll for a parking space and parking lot road rage is a thing…

…even though it's a parking lot and not the road. Technicalities, people. Someone will cut you off, ride your bumper, and lay on the horn as everyone circles like vultures. Maybe you’ll even see people throw down over who had blinker dibs on that coveted front-row parking space. Keep on circling or suck it up from the get-go and park in the furthest row (if you can even find a space there.)

I understand road rage and feeling rushed. But don’t give in to the urge to be a parking lot douche, people. It’s just not worth it. One of my best last-minute shopping tips? Just try to be nice.

3. There will be stray shopping carts occupying perfectly good parking spaces

You have two choices: be the good Samaritan and get out of your car and put the errant shopping cart back where it's supposed to be (major karma points!) or just keep on trolling.

Related post: Easy DIY Stars made from branches and twigs in your backyard.

4. Smiling is important

Smile at the other people in the parking lot as you go into the store. Smile at the people ringing the bell by the Salvation Army donation bucket. Say you're on that last-minute shopping trip and you're not going to toss your spare change into that bucket. It's fine. Don't duck your head and avert your eyes. Smile. Say “hi” or “Happy holidays” if you’re really feeling adventurous.

Smile at the other people in the store. I promise it won’t break your face if you smile at the person you make accidental eye contact with in the cereal aisle. Smile at the people waiting in line with you. They might smile back. They might not. It doesn't cost you and it doesn't hurt you to do it. 

On one of my last-minute trips to the grocery store this year, I was in line behind a lady with a fussy two-year-old. She looked like she was about at her limit when she was asked to re-swipe her card. I’m not sure what exactly the issue was but she ended up using another card. She kept glancing back at me apologetically as if she expected me to sigh, roll my eyes, and stamp my feet (which I honestly felt like doing.) I smiled at her instead…a sympathetic “yeah, I know how it is” smile and it was kind of amazing to see the stress melt off her face.

5. Giving is important when you're on a last-minute shopping trip

If you can, toss a few coins in the Salvation Army bucket or buy a couple of extra food items for the donation bins that are usually located by the checkout. Pay for the person in line behind you at Starbucks or Chick-fil-A. Leave a fiver tucked into the handle of the pump at the gas station. It will make someone's day and it will make yours, too.

6. Making a list decreases your chances that you’ll find yourself doing all of this again tomorrow

Duh, right? One of these days I'll learn. Hahahaha not really.

7. Saying stuff like “I’m so glad I don’t have to come in here again” will increase your chances of forgetting something, list or not, and land you back in the same crazy store tomorrow.

Don’t tempt karma on a last-minute shopping trip, people. Just do not.

8. Just be nice

I know it's hard sometimes. That's one of the best last-minute shopping tips out there. Just. Be. Nice. The aisle is crowded. The cashiers are probably slow. They probably have their own Christmas stress to deal with…did you ever think about that?

Maybe it took you 15 minutes to find a parking space a quarter mile from the store. Maybe you’re surrounded by moms with bratty kids or clueless guys wandering around the dairy section looking for the cream of tartar in that wild-eyed, desperate kind of way that would be cute if they weren’t in your way. Maybe you’re in the express checkout line behind the mathematically challenged person who thinks “15 items or less” means 37.

If you let yourself get twisted over every little annoyance you encounter from the parking lot to the checkout line, you’re going to have a miserable experience. I mean, come on. You’re in Walmart two days before Christmas…do you really want to make it more unpleasant?

Smile a little bit. Give a little bit. Dig deep for that little bit of patience you think you don’t have. And just don’t be a jerk. It’s easier than you think.

Busy shopping mall at Christmas time


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  1. Yes, I’ve been shopping Prime since yesterday. I will go out only if I have to. Tomorrow I fight the Target parking lot as my daughter is donating time for charity by playing music & singing. Wish me luck, lol. Merry Christmas.

  2. What did moms do before Amazon Prime? I love this post, and the whole idea of just don’t be a douchebag…which is harder than it sounds when you’re stressed and need that one last gift. I’m staying in my apartment until Christmas 🙂

  3. I always like when you bring up some important social topic for our attention. That is why I like coming back to this site and read more – we all need someone honest to make us see the true side of everything. Thank you for your work.