If you’re of a certain age, you probably remember how much fun it was to wander the mall with your friends. Today, your shopping trips may be more about groceries and home fixtures and sale-rack winter coats — but that doesn’t mean you can’t invite your friends along.
There are a couple of reasons why combining an errand run and a friend date works so well. First of all, it gives you the chance to spend time with someone you care about while also knocking something off your to-do list. Ideally, your friend will be able to cross a few errands off their to-do list too.
Second of all, anyone who’s ever taken a partner or child on a trip to Coles or Woolworths probably knows that you can have unexpectedly deep conversations in the car or in Aisle 3. Errands put you in contact with a lot of liminal spaces — the highway, the absurdly long checkout line — which give you both time to think and time to share what’s on your mind.
Compare this to your typical “let’s grab coffee” friend meetup, where you’re put into a situation that forces you to stare at each other and try to come up with something to say. (“So... how’s that weather we’re sportsballing?”) Some of us are great at those kind of interactions; others find them draining. But if you’re standing in a supermarket and trying to decide between three different bottles of drain cleaner, telling your friend that you need the drain cleaner because your long-haired preteen has started showering more often can prompt an entire conversation about parenting, ageing, and navigating puberty.
Plus, running errands with a friend can relieve the pressure of running those same errands with your partner, children, or by yourself (depending on your current situation). No whining about new toys or sugary cereals, no capital-D Discussions about the budget, no staring at your phone during the absurdly long checkout line because you don’t have anyone to talk to. Instead, you’ll get the chance to share what’s important to you with someone who can offer an external perspective — and you’ll get the chance to learn about their lives and offer your support in return.
So why not text your bestie and ask them if they want to go shopping? It worked when we were in middle school, after all — and it holds up when we’re adults, too. One of our Lifehacker editors recently commented that going on a grocery run with her friends boosted her mood so much more than texting back and forth with them while shopping on her own, and I have fond memories of hanging out in Target with my sister when we used to live in the same town. I visited my sister and her family last month, and a Target trip was part of the experience.
Plus, your friend might be the perfect person to talk you either into — or out of — that impulse buy.
Late one night last year, I was sitting in my apartment doing some work when my phone rang. It was my close friend, *Alex. Alex was dating another one of my good friends, Sonia, and she had brought him up to Michigan to meet her family. I assumed they were together and wanted to say hi, but I was immersed in what I was doing and ignored the call.