Holiday shopping can be frustrating enough on its own. Throw in the added stress of a pandemic to arguing over parking spaces, fender benders, vehicle break-ins, and even car theft, and surviving the holiday shopping season can turn the cheeriest Who in Whoville into a Grinch.

Here are some tips for staying safe and preventing theft this holiday shopping season. And don’t forget to check out these tips from the Better Business Bureau to protect yourself from identity theft and various scams targeting consumers during the holidays.  The Consumer Credit Counseling Services of Maryland (CCCSMD) also shares some helpful holiday shopping and budgeting advice on their blog.

Parking lot traffic: Breathe. A parking space isn’t worth getting into a fender bender, a shouting match – or even worse, a fight. Before you venture out, prepare yourself. Expect the parking situation to be stressful. Don’t assume that car backing out can see you. Don’t be surprised when another driver swoops in and takes a parking spot you are waiting for – and no matter how upset someone makes you, never get out of your car to confront them. There’s always another space available somewhere in the parking lot. The amount of time it takes to find a new spot is nothing compared to the time it will take to deal with mall security or police if you and another driver get into an altercation.

Save the texts for inside: Remember, it’s illegal to text and drive in Maryland. Between pedestrians loaded with bags, kids running through the parking lot, cars pulling out without looking, and a higher than normal volume of traffic, the mall parking lot is hazardous enough. Don’t make the situation more difficult by texting. Even while walking into or out of the store, texting puts you at risk of being hit by a car or even robbed, as thieves look for easy, distracted targets. Keep yourself safe by paying attention in the parking lot, both behind the wheel or walking.

Park in well-lit areas: The closer we get to the holidays, the earlier the sun sets. The well-lit spot you park in at 2:30 in the afternoon might be in the dark when you return a couple hours later. Keep in mind how long you plan to shop, and park accordingly if possible. Aside from personal safety, parking in well-lit areas can help avoid fender benders as you try to pull out of your space.

Can you see the gift in your back seat? So can a thief: Don’t leave gifts or other valuable items visible in your car. If you can see it from outside the car, so can a thief. Put bags, purses and any other valuables in the trunk. If you can’t fit them in the trunk, bring a blanket to cover them. And plan your purchases. Try to buy the largest item last so that once you have it in the car, you can head home.

Never leave your car running: No matter how quickly you think you can get in and out of a store, never leave your car running while unattended. Aside from being a theft risk, it’s illegal to leave an unattended car running in Maryland.

Don’t invent your own parking space: The architects who design mall parking lots know exactly how much space is necessary for a car to turn out of a parking row without hitting anything. When you create a new spot at the end of a row, you encroach on the travel lanes and put your car and others at risk of being hit. Many malls will have local police come and ticket or even tow those offenders who create their own spaces. Save yourself the headache and make the extra couple laps around the lot to find a real space.

And the simplest tip of all…don’t forget to lock your car.

We wish you a very happy, safe, and low-stress holiday season