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Holiday Gift Shopping with Less Stress

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Holidays are meant to be a time of joy, reflection, and celebration with family and friends. Too often, however, they turn into a nightmare frenzy of running around from one store to another shopping for the best deal while battling crowds of other harried consumers. Never mind that it seems that nothing at the mall is really personally thoughtful. Try some of our tips to help you make your holidays a little less stressful and a lot more enjoyable!

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  • Think outside the box when it comes to gifts. Being creative makes it fun, and fun often equates to less stress.
  • Consider starting a new holiday tradition! Especially for those without small children (who might not grasp the concept), make a memory instead of buying presents. Some people choose to go on a vacation, buy tickets for a special event, or splurge on dressing up for dinner at a special restaurant. And you can always try saving some money on that evening out at, where you can buy a $25 certificate for only $10. You can search their database of over 13,000 participating restaurants for one near you.
  • If you know how, crochet or knit a long, thin, fashionable scarf in a silky or textured yarn in the favorite colors for each of the special women in your life. Scarves are a relatively simple and quick way to create a unique gift with a homemade touch, and crocheting and knitting are stress relievers on their own. Jo-Ann Fabrics and Crafts stores feature many types of specialty yarns, and you can even order them online.
  • How about a gift subscription of one month or more to Netflix? That way you can pass on the gift of stress-free entertainment that outlasts the holiday season straight through the blahs of winter. With a few clicks of a button, you can print out the gift certificate and put it in a basket with a bag of gourmet popcorn and healthy oil for popping a bowlful to enjoy with the movies. A good choice for popping oil is safflower, and if your budget permits, choose an organic brand that can withstand higher heats. For those concerned with even lower fat content, skip the oil and fill the basket with some spices like Cajun, dill, or cumin, and include a fine-mist spritzer and handwritten instructions for your favorite popcorn recipe. Be sure to note that, if not using oil, the popcorn needs to be spritzed with water in order for the spices to stick. Crown Jewel Gourmet, featured in many fine magazines, has a large variety of all different kinds of kernels and seasonings.
  • Speaking of recipes, how about whipping up a few extra batches of your favorite cookies or other special treats? They make great gifts, wrapped in colorful plastic wrap with a ribbon or in a holiday cookie tin. Or try putting them in something a little unusual –mdash; like a vintage covered candy dish for your famous homemade fudge or that unusual cookie jar you found at a yard sale or on eBay last summer. Just to be prudent, if you don’t know if the pottery is food-safe, wrap the treats in wax paper, foil, or plastic first and use the dish as a gift box.
  • Going vintage is not only chic, it’s environmentally savvy. You can often find unique and inexpensive decorative items at yard sales, flea markets, consignment shops, antique stores, and eBay®. Don’t worry about matching a collection or if the receiver doesn’t have any specific collectibles! Just pick something that generally matches their taste (i.e., trendy, retro, classic) and/or their color scheme. Some ideas? How about salt and pepper shakers, teapots, fishing lures, Matchbox® cars, milk glass, sugar and creamer sets, or candle holders? Antique tools, pieces of machinery, or even decoys and fishing gear can make an intriguing piece of artwork if you have a bit of skill with woodworking and can mount it on a nice piece of finished wood. Enjoy your time shopping for a special item with a personal touch rather than feeling stress about finding the “perfect” gift at the mall.
  • Do you have some personal recipes that are constantly requested at every family picnic or potluck dinner with friends? You can type them up (or write them if you have legible handwriting), print out batches on holiday paper and take them to a local copy center to have them spiral bound and laminated while you wait. These make especially great gifts for friends and family if you’ve recently moved away. Southworth has some absolutely gorgeous bordered paper that is available to download for free.
  • If you have a friend or family member who is into health and fitness, spring for a month’s fees at their gym and a gift certificate at their favorite health food/nutritional supplement store, and put them in a stylish new gym bag. has some great bags, free shipping, and an extended return policy. Or commit to a year’s worth of being their walking companion. . . . You can easily personalize and print out a snazzy certificate from a template and enclose it in a holiday card. There are tons of free ones online –mdash; try Microsoft Word’s versions. Your friendship will receive a welcome hour or so each week, and you’ll be healthier for it too!
  • Do you often share a coffee or tea with a friend, neighbor, or family member? Indulge them with a bag of gourmet coffee or box of specialty teas and flavored syrup. There are some great, inexpensive sugar-free versions of these syrups too. You can find them at your local Sam’s Club or Costco and at online retailers’ sites. Amazon has a terrific selection of both regular and sugar-free syrups, including a large variety of flavors like vanilla, caramel, hazelnut, pomegranate, and even chocolate!
  • Let’s not forget those lovable sports fans in your family or group of friends. Here’s a fun idea: how about an extraordinary gift at Uncommon Goods and some sexy lingerie (or boxers!) with the team logo for the ever-enduring spouse?
  • For the book-lovers on your gift list, find a signed first edition at Lemuria bookstore. Or if you want to really go all out for that special someone, you can sign them up for the First Editions Club, and they’ll receive a signed first edition about 10 times a year for the price of the book and shipping. In the past three years, they’ve sent out five different signed first editions by John Grisham!

We hope you enjoy your holidays, and remember, the best gift you can give anyone (including yourself) is a healthy, less-stressed lifestyle.

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