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7 shopping tips to reduce holiday stress

As the owner of Bloom Creatives, Caroline Gutierrez Goddard tells stories with words and photos -- and as such, is a regular contributor here at SheKnows.

Holiday shopping tips

One of the most stressful aspects of the holidays is shopping. Between jockeying for a parking spot, fighting the crowds at the mall, and wrestling your budget into shape, your season of giving can quickly turn into a season of headaches. Shop smart this holiday season with these 7 shopping tips.

Save money -- and your sanity -- with the following tips:

Holiday shopping tip 1.

Don't be fooled by fliers.
Comparison shop, but remember that traveling to stores on different sides of town to buy items that seem less expensive might not be once you factor in the cost of gas and your time. Whichever route you choose, stick to your list!

Holiday shopping tip 2.

Schedule your shopping.
Stores are less crowded early or late in the day and early in the week. Avoid weekend mall madness by saving one of your vacation days to use for holiday shopping on a Tuesday, and save yourself hours of searching for a parking space and waiting on line at the cash register.

Holiday shopping tip 3.

Reputation counts.
Choose reliable retailers who stand behind what they sell and check return/exchange policies before buying. Shopping early in the season will afford the best selection, and shopping later in the season may result in savings as prices are reduced, but keep return timelines in mind.

Holiday shopping tip 4.

Cash is king.
Always pay with cash instead of a credit card. If you must use credit, do not charge more than you can completely pay off in one to two months. Interest charges add up quickly and will completely kill your budget. Those interest payments would be better invested in your retirement account!

Holiday shopping tip 5.

Make returns easy.
Ask for a gift receipt. Carry an envelope with you to store receipts as you shop. Enclose the gift receipt with the gift so your recipient can exchange the item if it does not suit her.

Holiday shopping tip 6.

It's the thought that counts.

Remember that a gift need not be expensive to be well-liked. Small but thoughtful gifts often are more appreciated and oftentimes more valuable than a gift found in any store, Young said. Think creatively: a recipe book filled with favorite family meal plans or a photo album of your friendship through the years are inexpensive yet meaningful gifts.

Holiday shopping tip 7.

Plan ahead for next year.
If you can, shop post-holiday sales for bargain prices on wrapping paper, holiday cards and decorations. Prices drop by 50 percent or more starting the day after Christmas. Store them in a cool, dry place until next holiday season.

For more information on managing money successfully, shoppers can contact their local K-State Research and Extension office or check the K-State financial management Web site: http://www.ksre.ksu.edu/financialmanagement/.

Check out more holiday shopping

Holiday savings: Save money shopping online

Stress-free holiday shopping tips

Values-based holiday shopping

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