Posts Tagged ‘Tips’

10 Boxing Day Shopping Tips


Sometimes it feels as if you really do need a pair of boxing gloves when you’re out tackling the crowds on Boxing Day: a shopper’s dream holiday in many of the major cities here in Canada.

I’ve taken on the annual Boxing Day shopping tradition for years now, even before it became legal in Toronto for stores to open their doors on this official statuatory holiday. Over the years my shopping decisions have been honed, and I have come up with some strategies that have made Boxing Day shopping a lot less stressful for me.

  1. Be the Early Bird
    • This is the first and most crucial tip. If you don’t want to be battling for parking spots, stuck in traffic, or feeling like a fish swimming upstream, you need to wake up early in time to get all the benefits. You need to also keep in mind that some stores run out of stock of those door-crasher items fairly quickly. I guarantee you as soon as 10am start to roll around, the line-ups outside the stores start forming to prevent overcrowding in the store. Malls in major Ontario cities usually open by 8am on Boxing Day; big-box stores like Futureshop as early as 6am. So in order to plan your day out right, try to be there at least 30 minutes before store opening.
  2. Make Your List and Check it Twice
    • Check out bargain-hunting websites like for early flyer leaks. If you’re able to get a gander at a flyer from a store you would like to visit on Boxing Day, go through it and find the things that you need (but most likely just want) to buy. Compare your list with items from other stores so that you’re able to get the best price possible. Then plan out which stores you need to visit based on this list and priority of the item. Try your best to research your purchases beforehand–just because something is cheap, doesn’t mean that it’s worth your money. Think quality and check out reviews on the item, sites like or will be a big help as long as you know the model number of the item you’re planning to buy.
  3. Wear the right clothing.
    • Ladies, I am telling you this for a reason. You do not want to be stuck in a mall for 4+ hours wearing 3″ stiletto heels–wear some comfortable flats or runners. And please don’t dress up to go shopping like you’re going out clubbing, because you’re going to be uncomfortable wearing those jeans that are a size-too-small just so that they can show your “assets”. You need to be comfortable. Wear some thick leggings, a tank top and a light sweater. This will make trying on clothing in the change rooms (or even out of the change rooms) so much easier.
    • And remember: You’re going to be in an area crowded with people. This means lots of body heat. Even though it may be -10 outside, try to leave the jacket in the car, or in the mall’s coat check (it’s going to be heavy carrying 10lbs of down feather around).
  4. Bring Cash and Stay on Budget
    • I know it is so much more easier to swipe that plastic, but having cash means quicker transactions (some stores offer “cash-only” lines for check-out), and you don’t have to wait for people who forget their PINs or could’ve sworn they deposited that cheque last week. Cash will also help you stay on budget, because once you’re out, your’re out. Just make sure you keep it secure among the crowds.
  5. Take Public Transit
    • I know taking the crowded and oh-so-reliable TTC with bags of purchased goods doesn’t seem too appealing, but at least this way you don’t have to worry about drive-stalking people in the Yorkdale parking lot, hoping that they’re headed to their car to leave (only to find out they’re dropping off their bags and ready for round two of shopping). Finding a parking spot (especially at Yorkdale) is a nightmare… not to mention the road range you have to deal with during those moments. Sometimes it’s best to save yourself the hassle.
  6. Don’t go alone
    • Boxing Day shopping with friends is so much more convenient and fun. When you’re out shopping with friends, one can hold a spot for you in that super-long line up while you pick up some last minute things, the other can text you about an unadvertised sale that’s happening in another store on the other end of the mall, another can make sure your staying on budget and not buying more than you can afford, and best of all: you all can relax and unwind for a late lunch after all the shopping is done. If there’s more than two of you going (e.g. an even number like 4), I would say split up and the pairs can meet up at a pre-determined place and time later (you cover more ground this way). And if just the two of you, stick together as much as possible so that you don’t get lost in the crowds.
  7. Watch Your Bag
    • Keeping in mind all the crowds to need to make sure that your valuables are secure. One of the easiest ways to do this (esp. for ladies) is making sure that you’re carrying the right purse: an over-the-shoulder or sling bag will be your best friend. You’re hands will be free to rummage through the racks, and be close at hand from others. Men, be careful how far out that wallet sticks from your back pocket.
  8. Review the Return Policy
    • Most likely you will purchase something on Boxing Day that was more of an impulse buy. When you come to your senses a few days later (and realize you didn’t need that second Slap Chop), make sure that you’re able to return it back to the store of purchase for a full refund. Just ask the cashier as you’re checking out. Most likley returns are processed a few days after the 26th to combat the lineups, so just keep that receipt on hand. One my favourite places to shop for their great return policy is The Bay. They have made such a great turnaround with their marketing and sales in the past few years, that it’s my go-to store on Boxing Day. Their return policy is 90 days with your receipt (tags attached) as long as you made your purchase with their HBC credit card (30 days otherwise).
  9. Shop Online
    • Not only is shopping online a time-saver, you don’t have to worry about carrying all those items around (especially if it’s a 40′ plasma TV), because they’ll be shipped right to your door (usually for free). For the past few years I’ve been buying my electronics and movies online because many big-box stores offer their Boxing Day pricing starting on Christmas Eve online. I managed to scoop up a couple of Blu-rays I really wanted–er, needed, and they should be delivered free to my door within the next few days. This way I don’t have to worry about standing in those long lines at the electronics store and wading through the crowds on Boxing Day. Just make sure you have a good Internet connection.
  10. Take Time to Relax
    • When I go out Boxing Day shopping, it’s usually a 5-6 hour event including wait time, and if I have to venture to a different shopping complex the same day. After all that shopping, grab a cup of coffee, soak those tired feet, snack on those holiday leftovers and revel in all those holiday purchases before your bank statement comes in. You deserve a break.

Cross-Border Shopping Tips for Canadians


The infamous Black Friday begins in less than one hour. People will start heading towards the malls and outlets in hopes of scoring a big deal. For some Canadians who might be asking “What is Black Friday?” Well it’s a lot like Boxing Day… on steroids.

The day after U.S. Thanksgiving is probably the busiest shopping day of the year. Retailers will mark down prices and get ready to brave the crowds of customers that will enter their store searching for discounted merchandise–just in time for the Christmas season.

Personally, I haven’t been shopping in the U.S. on Black Friday… mainly because I value my life. But this year I’m going to take it a little slowly: Instead of driving down State-side for the official start of Black Friday, I’m going to wait 24 hours and head down to the U.S. on Saturday morning. By then I’m hoping the crowds will be less hectic than the day before, but still hoping that many of the specially-priced items will be in stock.

I opted to head to Pennslyvania, namely Erie and Grove City, because the state is a popular destination for travelers who want tax-free shopping (at least on clothes). I plan to get an early night sleep tomorrow night, wake up at 3am, pick up my shopping buddies and reach Pennsylvania by 7am. Hopefully I’ll miss the border traffic and will get there just in time for when the major malls open to continue the sales.

Are you a Canadian hoping to find some great bargains this weekend? Well here are some tips that I’ve compiled if you’re planning on tackling the crowds:

  • Leave early. Why waste 3 hours at the border when you can be shopping? Peak travel time is around 9am, so aim to be at the border crossing by 7am to avoid the rush. Shopping on Black Friday? Then you’ll probably have to aim to be at the border a lot earlier. Walden Galleria opens at 7am this Saturday so you can expect line ups for parking and to enter the mall starting in the wee hours of the morning. You might want to even think about leaving on Thursday night, since some shopping areas like Fashion Outlets Niagara Falls open at midnight that day. If you don’t have a particular door-crasher or big ticket item on your list to buy, then I suggest waiting until Saturday or Sunday to shop for the holidays. The line-ups may be more manageable and some of the sales will still be on.
  • Prepare for the journey. Wear comfortable clothes. Don’t forget to eat breakfast and pack a snack. The ride may be long, and the lineups even longer. If you’re dressed for the crowds and have a full stomach you’ll feel prepped to shop. Ladies, make sure your purse doesn’t weigh 10lbs because you’ll be lugging it around all day.
  • Mind the bridges. For people crossing the border from the GTA area there are three main bridges to use: Queenston-Lewiston (usually the busiest), Rainbow Bridge and the Peace Bridge. Personally, I opt to take the Peace Bridge… I find it the quickest out of the three. If you want an update on border traffic, jot this number down: 1-800-715-6722 or if you have your Blackberry or laptop with you, you can visit the Border Wait Times link to keep up to date on the traffic.
  • Have your documents ready. It’ll be rather unfortunate if you spent 2 hours waiting at the border to head into the U.S. for a day of shopping, only to realize that you were under the false notion that you only needed a driver’s license in order to enter the U.S. Be prepared to be sent back if that’s all you have. A passport is your best bet. As of January 31st of next year a driver’s license along with a birth certificate or citizenship card is needed at the border, or you will be refused entry into the U.S.
  • Make a list. This is especially important if you’re traveling via one of the many offered bus shopping tours. Share Newspaper (available in many West Indian shops) always has a long listing of chartered bus organizers. There are also bus companies such as, Safeway Tours and Tai Pan Tours that offer multiple-day shopping trips. These companies make a lot of stops, but that also means that time is limited. Know what you want to buy and try to refrain from browsing too much. I remember I had to put back a nice, sterling-silver necklace at Macy’s because the woman in front of me decided to separate her purchases and hold up the line. The bus might have left me if I didn’t hurry up right then and there. Another good thing about making a list is that you can compare Canadian and U.S. prices. So before you leave for your trip, jot down the approximate amount of that item you wanted to buy. If you see the same item in the States and it’s a lot cheaper (taking into consideration the possible taxes and/or duties you may have to pay on the way back) then pick it up. If you know what you want to buy before you go, then you’ll spend less time wandering aimlessly through the aisles, and that could cut into the time you can spend visiting other stores and getting back into Canada before the traffic piles up in the evening.
  • Be nice. Yes, it may feel hard to be cordial at a time when adrenalie is pouding and people are dashing down aisles. But if you’re calm and try not to let other people get to you in a negative way, it’ll make your shopping experience a lot better.
  • Use cash. Sure it may be easier to swipe that credit card, but the exchange rate you’ll be charged on those purchases my vary depending on when the transaction is made and posted to the system.
  • Leave the kids at home. This is only really applicable for Black Friday shopping. These crowds can become a bit dangerous with hordes of eager shopping waiting to burst through the doors of a store in the morning. Putting a young child in harms way just so you can save $50 on a brand new TV isn’t worth it. Find a babysitter, or wait till the hype dies down.
  • Don’t dare. Before the dollar reached parity it was a lot easier to bend the truth about how much you declared on the way back to Canada and not be asked to pay taxes or duties. But now since there’s a myriad of cross-border shoppers, CBSA officers are going to be more thorough and your chances of being sent in the building to pay taxes or searched are increased. Be as honest as possible. Custom officers aren’t stupid. They’re well aware of all the tactics used to smuggle goods into Canada in order to avoid paying taxes and duties. If you say that you spent $50 on a day trip, but really spend $300, have several shopping bags with you and are wearing brand new clothes and shoes, chances are that they’re going to see right through you.
  • Don’t litter. Thinking about taking off all the tags and discarding all the boxes from the stuff you purchased? Going to wear old clothes and dash them in the trash and put on the new ones you bought? Think again. If you don’t declare these items at the border and CBSA find out, you have a good chance of these items being seized if you don’t have proof of their origin.
  • Be honest. The penalty for making a false declaration is very severe. There’s a large fine for trying to smuggle goods across the border. It’s not worth the hassle of being black-listed (records of infractions are kept for six years) or stopped on future visits just because you wanted to avoid paying the $42 tax on $300 worth of (inexpensive) U.S. goods. If you make a false declaration and are caught, your goods may be seized and you’ll have to pay a hefty amount (25-80% of the total value) in order to get them back. Alcohol and tobacco products are seized permanently if they aren’t declared and custom officials find them. Half the time, even if you do end up paying taxes, you still manage to save money on certain items, compared to their price here in Canada. Just keep in mind that in the end paying taxes helps you as a Canadian.
  • Know your stuff. For a same-day trip there’s no tax or duty exemption. That means that you must pay the applicable PST and GST/HST on all US-purchased items on your way back into Canada. Duty is separate from sales tax. Duty depends on the type of item purchased and whether it was made in North America or not. Canadian, American and Mexican-made goods are duty-free. For example, if you purchased a television that was manufactured in China, you’ll have to pay 5% duty on it, along with GST/HST and PST. A pair of shoes made overseas will cost you 17% duty plus taxes. Not all items will be charged tax though. Children’s clothes and groceries (with some limits) for example are PST-free. Things like video games, toys and toasters are duty free.
  • Stay a little longer. On a trip more that 24 hours but less than 48 hours in duration, you have a $50 tax exemption (not including alcohol and tobacco). Mind you if you spend $50.01, you have to pay full tax and duty on everything. A 48-hour trip has a $400 exemption, and a trip that’s 7 days or more has a $750 exemption. If you want a better chance of re-entering Canada without having to pay some taxes, up your shopping day trip to a couple of days, and make sure you have receipts to back up your length of stay away. But don’t lie about how long you’ve spent in the States just so you can get a higher tax exemption… they know how long you’ve really been gone.
  • Keep your receipts. Have them ready and organized when you reach customs on the way back to Canada so that you can show them to the CBSA agent if asked. An envelope and a calculator may come in handy.
  • Answer the questions. When you’re on your way back home from your shopping extravaganza, customs officials are going to ask you questions such as: Where did you visit? How long were you there? What did you bring back with you? How much did you spend? Do you have any alcohol or tobacco? This isn’t a good time to lie, so be honest and you may get lucky and off the tax-hook.
  • Do some research. Visit for more info on what you need to know when cross-border shopping in the United States. If you want to find out what the sales are going to be like for Black Friday, check out for ads and deal listings for popular stores.

Millcreek Mall (Erie, PA)
Prime Outlets (Grove City, PA)
Fashion Outlets Niagara Falls (Niagara Falls, NY)
Walden Galleria (Buffalo, NY)

I’d like to thank reporter David Friend of The Canadian Press for giving me the opportunity to provide some of my tips in his article on cross-border shopping. Good luck to all of you heading out this weekend. Stay tuned next month for my Boxing Day tips!