It's a task as daunting as stringing lights around the Rockefeller Plaza Christmas tree. I'm talking about shopping on Dec. 26. The malls are jam-packed. Parking is a nightmare. But those sales are just so irresistible. Cashmere sweaters, flat screen TVs and those cute little soap sets, all at crazy-low prices. If you dare to brave the post-Christmas sales today, here are some tips to keep your spirit merry and bright.
. Get a babysitter. Post-holiday shopping is intense. It requires organization, focus and endurance. So do yourself and your kids a favor — let them sleep in and then eat leftover pie for breakfast while you brave the mall madness. Not only is solo shopping less stressful, it's also the perfect time to buy future birthday and holiday gifts for your little ones.
. Rack up the savings. First, gather any gift certificates you've received and put them in your wallet or purse. Next, scour store Web sites and newspapers for coupons offering additional savings. If you forget your newspaper at home, ask a clerk if the store has a coupon in today's paper. If the answer is yes, hightail it to the mall's bookstore to buy a copy. The coins you spend will pay off at the checkout counter.
. Have a plan. With fellow shoppers snatching up items in a frenzy, it's tempting to succumb to impulse buys. But many "last-chance clearance" items cannot be returned, so read the fine print on those sale signs. Have a plan for everything you buy — say, a "Baby's First Easter" bib for your friend who's expecting in the spring or a "Home Sweet Home" picture frame for your friend who's closing on a house soon. Also, figure out where you'll store your purchases, and keep all receipts.
. Think ahead to next season. Sure, it's fun to snag clothing and appliances at dirt-cheap prices, but if you nab a few unsexy purchases now, you'll thank yourself next year. Stock up on holiday decorations, cards and wrapping paper while the stores are practically giving them away. This may mean hitting up drugstores, which often carry discounted holiday items.
. Avoid the return line. Steps 1-4 are meant to spare you frustration, so don't go blowing all your good cheer by waiting in a long customer service line. If you need to return or exchange something that can't be handled at a regular cash register, stash it in your trunk and come back another time.