8 Ways to Maximize Your Lunch Hour Shopping

It’s fun to take your lunch hour at work. Shopping or just strolling around the parking lot to stretch your legs provides a welcome break from your busy day.

But you may have a lot to pack into those 60 minutes—and so does everyone else. About 93% of working professionals leave the office to shop, take care of errands, or buy stuff online while out to lunch, according to a survey by Captivate. Weaving through traffic leaves you little time to comparison shop, exercise, or drop off the dry cleaning that’s been sitting on your bedroom floor for days.

Let’s put some punch into your lunch schedule. We’ve got eight ideas to help you get the most out of your break time.

1. Have a properly portioned plan. Taking care of two or three errands during your lunch hour is a good idea. Trying to tackle 10 of them? Not a good idea! That could stress you out and affect the rest of your day at work and home. Keep your to-do list manageable and spread errands out over the week.

2. Know how much you can spend. We’ve all been there—you set out to buy a few items, casually pick up one or five more, then discover at the register that those few items cost more than a few dollars. That post-shopping regret can spoil your lunch-hour appetite. Be on top of how much you have available in your budget and the items you need to purchase. Then there won’t be any surprises.

3. Prioritize the stuff that can’t wait. If you need to fill the gas tank in order to make it home later, that’s more important than getting lightbulbs or lipstick at the store. Go for the gas first. If that takes too much time, don’t worry. Your shade of Blushing Rose or Magenta Madness will still be there tomorrow.

4. Don’t go in a flash. Flash sales are email and social media offers that are usually good for one day or less. Many of them are only valid during lunchtime because retailers know that’s when you shop, so they do more to lure you in. That 40% off flash sale at your favorite clothing store looks mighty tempting in your inbox—and that’s exactly what the seller wants. Check your budget each night to know how much you have available in your restaurant, clothing and other budget categories. That way, when the email pops up, you know if you can act now or let this limited-time offer pass.

5. Pull double duty. If the store you are headed to is within walking distance, then give your gas and brake pedals a rest and use your feet! You can get some fresh air, burn calories, and even add years to your life. A 25-minute daily walk can give you up to seven more years, says a 2015 study by Saarland University in Germany.

6. Go by yourself. Shop solo during this hour in order to stay focused. Going with a friend may be fun, but it can slow you down or divert your attention. Look at it this way—once you get all your errands taken care of, that frees up lunch hour on another day to eat with your BFF.

7. Make your meal time earlier. If your schedule allows, head out for an early lunch. Even if you bump your time up by a half hour, the lunch-time shopping crowd will be a little thinner. You’ll spend less time driving, more time getting what you need, and no time wondering who will get the best parking spots back at the office.

8. Don’t forget to eat. It’s called “lunch” hour for a reason. Take at least a few minutes to enjoy your chicken salad or leftovers. Plan your activities around your eating. If the hour is jam-packed with other stuff, then give yourself some down time tomorrow. By midday, you’ve earned it.

Maximizing your lunch hour is a piece of cake when you make a budget, plan your schedule, and stay focused. You’ll enjoy the time a lot more—in fact, you’ll eat it up!