Holiday Tips for Less Stress, More Fun
Experts share their best advice on how to enjoy a stress-free holiday season.
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"A nice box of homemade cookies is very thoughtful," Carlin says. "Make a big batch, divide them up, and put them in small, decorative bags. That way, you can take care of several friends at the same time."
In the event that you've got plenty of cash to spend, don't go overboard with buying expensive gifts, especially in an office environment. "When everyone else is exchanging candy and books and candles, your presenting someone with an iPod will not make you look generous — it'll make you look silly."
Shop online, when it's convenient for you.
Packed parking lots, long lines, crowded malls, and higher blood pressure – is this what you want? This year, opt for a calmer, gentler shopping experience. Grab your slippers, a warm cup of apple cider and turn on the computer.
"Go online," says Helen Malani, who monitors online shopping trends and patterns. "Once you get there, you can shop on your own time." Consumers have been conditioned to shop during shopping hours, instead of controlling their shopping lives, she adds.
Today's more sophisticated web sites, such as Nordstrom.com, allow shoppers to chat live with designer and beauty specialists, or a customer representative, as if you were in the store. Take advantage of a vast array of online shops and see who's dangling the best price tags. Save yourself time, Malani says, by shopping on all-in-one sites such as shopzilla.com, where you can comparison-shop among top retailers, calculate shipping costs and purchase on the spot.
But if you're nostalgic for the traditional, holiday shopping scene, Malani suggests surfing the Internet before you head out to avoid visiting too many stores. Use the Web as an information source to prepare yourself. "Lock down the price of the item in your budget, then go to the store, to touch it and feel it," she says.
Malani's best tip? Get started early. Don't cool your heels for Black Friday – the first, and most chaotic, day of the holiday shopping season. Merchants use the day after Thanksgiving to lure you in with good deals. Look around for early-bird specials.
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