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Holiday gift-giving is big business these days. While gift-giving in general is a long-standing and meaningful practice in most cultures, holiday gift-giving in North America seems to have grown more complicated and stressful with every passing year. Here are a few tips to keep in mind as you embark on your quest:

Start early!
(If you’re making gifts, this goes double). As tempting as it is, try not to leave your shopping until the last minute. Holiday crowds and lineups multiply the frustration and wait factors many times over, and everything will take longer than you expect. Popular items also disappear early, so if you wait too long, you may find yourself with slim-pickings. If ordering items online, allow plenty of time for shipping.

Know what you’re getting before you hit the mall. The frantic holiday season is not the time for browsing. Go prepared, with list in hand, of the various items you need to pick up, so that you can be in and out with the least amount of hassle. This website will give you all kinds of creative ideas, so there are no excuses not to be prepared!

Do any comparison shopping online. Even if you want to purchase the item in-store, many retailers have websites with most of their product line and prices listed. By determining who has the best deal ahead of time, you’ll save yourself precious hours and gas by making one focused trip instead of ten.

Decide on your gift-giving budget ahead of time and stick to it. To avoid post-holiday debt hangover, be realistic about how much you can afford to spend on gifts. How many people do you really feel you want/need to buy for? Don’t forget that cards, paper, bows, decorative elements, shipping costs, etc. all add up as well. 

It’s not about the price tag. Remember, the best gifts come from the heart and show that you know your recipient’s values and interests, and that you’ve put some time and thought (rather than gobs of money) into selecting a gift.