The Smart Parent's Holiday Survival Guide

Do the Actual Shopping Without Dropping

Shop Online

Greg Clarke

Go for one-stop online shopping. The Internet is a miracle when it comes to holiday shopping. That, you know! But you can take it one step further: Instead of ordering from multiple places, consolidate and order from a single site. "I get fruit baskets or wreaths for all of my husband's aunts," says Cartwright Holecko. It's a simplifying move that also works well for buying presents such as books and music and for shopping from department stores or websites that sell a range of stuff. And you'll save on shipping when you order from one place.

Get the girls together and make a day of it. Any daunting task is easier and way more fun if you do it as a group. So schedule a shopping date with a bunch of friends. It's also a great way to slip in some girl time -- which tends to be nonexistent, yet much needed, during the holidays. And you're bound to end up swapping hilarious stories about some of the crazy relatives you're shopping for. My mom and two sisters and I head out every November to Christmas shop for each other. Sometimes we buy gifts then and there (the sweater I see my sister admiring, for example) or we'll have a blast just browsing together -- but pick up ideas for things we can buy later online.

Next year, start really, really early. "I begin shopping right after Christmas and am usually done by July," says Jennifer LaFond, a mother of two from Glens Falls, New York. "I know that sounds insane, but everything is about 70 percent off then, so you can save a boatload of money. And if you do it little by little, it's no big stress once the holidays actually roll around. I also pick up gift tags, ribbon, and wrapping paper after Christmas and wrap everything right after I buy it. You don't get to enjoy Christmas if you're rushing around like a madwoman or wrapping presents until 2 a.m."

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