The Smart Parent's Holiday Survival Guide

Streamline and Simplify the Gift-Exchange Process

Keep a running wish list. Last year, my husband and I filled a folder with pages torn from catalogs, toy circulars, and things our son, now 5, saw on TV and begged us to buy for him. When our relatives asked what the kids would like, we weeded through the folder and had them choose their favorite things.

Swap lists of ideas. "My family has always exchanged gift lists," says mom of two Catherine Cartwright Holecko, of Neenah, Wisconsin. It saves you loads of time, everyone gets just what they want, and it spares you from having to stand in return lines for ages after the holidays.

Pare down your shopping list for your child. "Santa brings my kids only a few gifts each -- because their grandparents get them so much stuff it's insane!" says Kate Clow, a mom of three from Chatham, New Jersey. "Rather than argue with their present overload, I decided to let it go. I just keep the number of gifts I buy to a minimum. And I can't tell you how much it's decreased stress in my life. There's less shopping, wrapping, and clutter in our house! Plus, it saves us so much money."

Do a gift swap -- especially if you're from a big family. This is another genius holiday sanity saver Clow's family has adopted: "Around Thanksgiving we throw everyone's name into a hat. Then we each draw a name, and that's who we buy for. So rather than getting presents for my sisters, parents, aunts, cousins, and so on, we have a one-person, one-gift limit."

Suggest kiddie gifts that don't come from a toy store. "I tell family members to buy books for my two girls," says Glackin. "That way, we have a variety of things to read to them -- we aren't stuck with Goodnight Moon every night! Plus, books don't take up much space."

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