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    10 Holiday Shopping Tips That'll Make You Feel Slightly Less Stressed

    🎵It's the most wonderful (and stressful) time of the year. 🎵

    If you aren't already thinking about making your holiday gift lists and checking them twice...maybe you are now. Giving presents should be fun and exciting, but it often becomes stressful when your budget is tight or you don't know what to get your loved ones.

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    So, here are some holiday shopping tips that might alleviate your gift-giving worries.

    Plus, I chatted with financial therapist Amanda Clayman — who is also Prudential's Financial Wellness Advocate — to help you understand some common stressors when it comes to this glorious, cash-burning time of year.

    1. First and foremost, respect your own resources and their limitations.

    Person making an online purchase with their family nearby
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    While you may think your loved ones deserve the greatest (and often, the most expensive) gifts, understand that your money is limited.

    "The place where people seem to feel the most regret is when they are not clear about what their own needs and boundaries are," said Amanda Clayman. "Needs and boundaries are how much time and money they can put toward gift giving. It is also their ability to decide how much significance they want holiday shopping to take up in their life at the moment."

    Protect your resources. Create a gifting budget for yourself, shop around for the best prices, and purchase gifts on sale. If you think buying gifts with your credit card will dig you into an unsafe level of debt, use cash instead so you only spend money you actually have. It'll help you stay within your specified budget as much as possible.

    2. Create designated "shopping days" and "rest days" to allow yourself time to think about gifting — and time to not think about it at all.

    Person at home shopping online
    Geber86 / Getty Images

    Sometimes, holiday shopping feels like a full-time job on top of your full-time job. It's easy to let your mind wander toward gift ideas when you should be doing other tasks. But keep in mind that your energy is one of the most valuable resources you have. Don't scroll through online shops every night until your eyes bleed. Organize your gift hunting in a way that allows you to specify one day a week where you'll set aside a block of time just for holiday shopping. This way, you won't let shopping get in the way of your other obligations throughout the week. You can even turn it into an "event" to look forward to by getting cozy, making a cup of hot cocoa, and putting on some holiday tunes while you go through your search.

    Likewise, give yourself days where you won't think about buying gifts at all. Gift giving doesn't need to be something you think about every waking minute of every day.

    3. Get started as early as possible.

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    When you start shopping at the last minute, you put yourself in a frazzled position where you might just end up adding anything that looks remotely good to your cart. Sure, you may finally feel that wave of relief when you wipe out your lengthly list in just a day, but you risk second-guessing some of the gifts you bought.

    Another totally underrated benefit to starting early: you can appropriately account for shipping time on online orders. It's easy to start stressing when your package is a few days late even when you aren't holiday shopping; the anxiety goes through the roof when you don't have much time to have a present delivered.

    If you are pressed for time, avoid ordering anything that needs to be custom-made. Just assume that the gift will take one to two weeks to be made and then at least an additional week to ship.

    4. And avoid any last-minute impulse purchases.

    Person shopping and checking their watch
    Ned Frisk / Getty Images

    You may fall into the trap of purchasing the first nice gift you see for someone, but then a day later, you find something even better (ugh, of course!). At this point, you may decide to buy that gift as well, thus spending even more money than you wanted to. Or, you might mentally beat yourself up for purchasing the first gift. It's better to get them just one thoughtful gift rather than several things to make the present feel "more meaningful."

    Save the second gift idea for next year's holiday. Or, wait for their birthday and gift it to them then.

    5. Create a list of everyone you need to shop for so you don't feel like your gift purchasing is all over the place.

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    Attention fellow spreadsheet nerds: This is our time to shine!! Not only will your list help you keep track of how many gifts you need to buy, but it'll also let you cross off the people you've already purchased for. While your friend may be thrilled to accidentally receive a second gift because you forgot you'd already bought them something, your wallet may beg to differ.

    And, don't worry if your organization skills aren't pristine. Even a simple list on a sheet of loose-leaf is effective; it's not going to the Guggenheim.

    Once you have your list, start to jot down any gift ideas that jump out at you right off the bat. This will help you figure out if you'll need to save up for something that's on the pricier side.

    6. Establish a price limit with your partner, friends, and family members.

    Bravo

    For many people, conversations around money can be hard. But the consequence of avoiding that conversation may outweigh the discomfort of not having it in the first place (especially when it comes to gift giving).

    We've all been in the situation where we think we have to "level-up" to someone's price point because they might gift us something more expensive. "I think having an agreed upon price point will be helpful to avoid a situation like this," Clayman said. "It’s a great first step to take in order to open up territories for discussing stressors. When we open the door to one conversation about money, it makes it easier to expand on future conversations."

    Being honest about what you can afford will help remove this pressure.

    7. Find creative ways to keep your costs down.

    Person putting shopping bag that says "Sale" into trunk of a car
    Peter Dazeley / Getty Images

    Look, you're gonna spend money. It's inevitable. Let's make peace with that. However, you don't have to spend a ton of money.

    Take advantage of sales offered by your friend's favorite store. Use a browser extension like Honey or Wikibuy to automatically apply available coupons to lower the cost of your order (can confirm, the feeling of saving money without having to research individual coupon codes is like food for the soul). Use apps like iBotta and Dosh to receive some cash back on your purchases. It almost feels like getting a full-price item for a discount.

    Additionally, keep an eye out for sample sales. Brands give you a peak at some of what's to come for a much lower cost. Last year, I bought a purse for $80 through a sample sale, and when the bag became part of the normal inventory a few months later, the price rose to $140. Sample sales are your friend.

    8. Organize a Secret Santa with your family or friend group so you don't have to spend extra money getting each person an individual gift.

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    Raise your hand if buying gifts for everyone in your friend group has ever stressed you out a little. 🙋🏽‍♀️Smooth over those worries by organizing a Secret Santa exchange. It works like this: everyone randomly draws the name of one person in the group, and that becomes the person you have to purchase a gift for. This way, you only have to think about purchasing one gift instead of nine.

    You can create an exchange for your group using a site like Elfster. Just add each person's name and email address, and the generator will randomly assign each person a recipient. It even gives group members the option to add specific items they want, which totally removes the guesswork on your part!

    9. If you're really stumped for what to buy someone, get them a gift you know they'll use often.

    Family unwrapping gifts
    Louise Beaumont / Getty Images

    A lot of the stress of gift-giving stems from simply not knowing what to get someone. When you get someone a gift they don't seem to love, you can't help but feel like you've wasted your time and money. It happens! But you don't have to beat yourself up about it.

    If you really don't know what to gift someone, think about getting them an item you know they actually use regularly. How could they be unsatisfied? You save them from having to shell out the cash for the same item themselves. Maybe your friend always has a planner by their side. Gift them next year's version of the planner they currently use so they don't have to buy it themselves! Or perhaps your dad — who's *notoriously* the hardest person in the family to buy for — doesn't like much and doesn't want much, but he's worn the same type of sweatshirt down to the last thread. See if you can buy a set of new ones from the same brand.

    10. And lastly, remember you can always just ask your loved ones what they actually want or need for Christmas.

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    If you're stressed out about finding them the ~perfect gift~ and don't know what it is, it's okay to ask them directly what they have their eye on this year. Sure, the element of surprise can feel magical, but your peace of mind is also important.

    "A lot of people battle a fear of making mistakes. There’s a layer of shame involved that we may not be aware of," Clayman said. "Shame is a social emotion, and the purpose of shame is to help guide us and not do things that will cast us out of the group. Gift giving sets off this shame response because giving this gift is really about the representation of a relationship, and we’re afraid of getting the relationship wrong."

    Do you have any other holiday shopping tips? Share 'em with us below!

    If this sounds like music to your ears (and bank account), check out more of our personal finance posts.

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