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Holiday shopping survival guide

Jessica Padykula is a freelance writer and editor in Toronto, Canada covering a wide range of  topics for several online lifestyle publications. She is a regular contributor for SheKnows, covering travel, style, relationships, health and...

Stress less while you shop

Long lines, crowded parking lots and everyone rushing around in a panic to get every last gift purchased on time can take its toll on even the most strategic shopper. This year, keep chaos to a minimum with our simple shopping survival guide.

Woman shopping for Christmas

Holiday shopping can be fun and festive, but it can also be stressful. We have a few tips to help you have a calmer, more efficient trip to the mall.

Know your budget

Make it work: Log everything you buy related to the holidays (right down to the bows and gift tags) and save receipts. You can either keep a running tab in a notebook you keep in your purse or list it on your phone. Just because you've set a budget doesn't mean you'll automatically stick to it, so be diligent about keeping track of every purchase — big and small.

Before you even hit the mall, you should know how much you can spend this season on gifts. It can be so easy to overspend during the holidays, and having a bottom line in place can help prevent going overboard. Once you know what your budget is you can break it down further into how much you want to spend on each person on your list. The numbers don't have to be exact — they're more of a guide to make your shopping experience easier.

Have a plan

Avoid a shopping-induced meltdown by having at least a rough outline of who you're buying for and what you're getting them. Bring a list of names of everyone you need to buy for. Beside each name, list the approximate amount you've budgeted to spend and what you're planning to get for each person. Having a shopping plan to guide you through the experience will cut down on stress and make the process much more efficient.

Devise a route

If you have to go to several stores on each holiday shopping excursion, it's a good idea to plan your route before hopping in the car. The last thing you want to do is drive across town and back only to realize there you're going to have to make the trek all over again the next day. Have an idea of all of the stores you want to go to — especially any specialty stores that might be out of the way or harder to get to. Once you know where you need to go over the next few days, plan the routes that make the most sense (i.e., the ones that don't have you driving all over town, wasting precious shopping time). Map your route on your GPS or smartphone so you stay on track.

Take breaks

Let's face it: All that shopping can zap your energy. Rather than keep going and going until you're too wiped to even know what you're buying, make sure you take breaks. Build in a stop at your favorite coffee or lunch spot along your shopping route — that way you won't end up getting too tired to keep shopping. Even just taking 10 minutes to leave the mall to get some fresh air (and a break from the crowds) can make a huge difference in your shopping experience.

bottle of waterPack snacks and water

Whether or not you end up grabbing a sandwich or coffee and a muffin mid-shop, remember to pack snacks and water so you can keep your energy up throughout the day. There's nothing worse than getting hungry and dehydrated as you stand in line to buy the must-have toy of the season. Bring a full reusable water bottle and some light but power-packed snacks in your purse. Raw nuts, an apple, low-sugar granola bars and trail mix all make good on-the-go choices.

More holiday tips

Working Mom 3.0: Home office and the holidays
Our best tips for stress-free holiday travel
An old-fashioned Christmas

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