I think I've mentioned before how much I hate to shop. So when I agreed to join my sisters, mother and aunt on their annual weekend shopping extravaganza in the Poconos, everyone was a bit skeptical -- none more than me. I knew I was in for long days of outlet shopping and bargain hunting. But I didn't know just how hardcore these women are about their bargains. And I certainly couldn't have predicted I would have so much fun.

When I arrived on Friday night they'd already been at it for a full day. There were bags piled all over the living room of the house we were renting on an Army base for the weekend. (My dad's military discount scored us some great, roomy digs for very little money. Bargain No. 1.) Then I was given my "packet" -- sheet after sheet of coupons and discounts printed from the Web for each of the outlet stores we were going to the next day. The packet was neatly stapled and had my name written across the top. These were MY discounts to keep track of. As my relatives showed off their purchases from the day, I settled into my seat and studied my coupons. I knew I was in for some serious shopping boot camp, and I wanted to be prepared.

But nothing could have prepared me for what transpired. These women have this shopping excursion down to a science. We wore matching jean shirts over our other shirts so that we could easily spot one another in a crowded store. My sister, mother and aunt all had matching purses, another annual tradition. We arrived at 10 a.m., right when the outlets opened, and we did not stop shopping until almost 9 p.m. They knew where every store was, and who typically had the best kids' clothes or the most discounted athletic wear. They knew which stores would accept my aunt's AAA discount for an additional bargain. They had calculators and pads of paper and pens with them to quickly calculate how much the total would be with a certain discount. They knew when to pool their purchases to meet a certain dollar amount to get an additional discount, and they knew how to give the cashier their merchandise in the right order so they could easily figure out who owed what later that night.

These women knew how to shop.

We used coupons for every meal and snack. We used coupons for virtually every purchase. Sometimes more than one coupon, tacked onto articles bought off an already discounted rack. We headed straight for the clearance racks at every store, just to see what was there. We shared info on deals and discounts with other shoppers, and they shared with us, too. Turns out there's an instant bond between two people who want to save a buck.

We didn't eat lunch until almost 3 p.m. We didn't eat dinner until 9:30 p.m. We survived on adrenaline and mini candy bars that we'd shoved in our purses before the long day began. It was insanity.

And I loved it. I got half my Christmas shopping done, and I don't usually start Christmas shopping until mid-December. I bought myself a much-needed winter jacket and my son much-needed clothes and PJs. I laughed with my sisters, laughed with my mom, laughed with my aunt. Everyone was as happy at 11 p.m. when we arrived home as they'd been at 10 a.m. when we'd left.

And then we returned to the outlets for another 5 hours of shopping on Sunday.

Truth be told, I said to my mom on Sunday afternoon that I don't think I could have done three full days of such madness. It was all a little much for me. But I AM already looking forward to next year's mad shopping spree.

I might even bring my own calculator.


Kostyn's Granny said...

What fun we had and it was so great to have you with us. You certainly earned your shopping "wings" this weekend. And how we laughed. My heart is full.

Sheila said...

I'm impressed!! Does this mean you're gonna be the first one out the door and waiting in line at midnight on Black Friday? I should have asked you to by ME a winter coat -- I desperately need one and have no desire to fight shoppers like you guys to go get one!

Kim said...

I've been coupon-clipping and trying to be very frugal, but it sounds like I still have a lot to learn!

Lyn said...

I'm jealous! I want to go on one of those trips!