If just the thought of family Christmas shopping makes you cringe, don’t worry! Shopping with, or for, the family is not always what you imagine it to be. What starts out as a wonderful tradition of gift giving can quickly spiral out of control into a very stressful event, especially with small children in tow. 

You may feel like Martha in the Bible account where Mary was sitting at the feet of Jesus, soaking up His presence, while Martha was getting more and more irritated that she was doing all the work.

But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her. —Luke 10:41-42 

But it is possible to really enjoy the process of gift buying and the spirit of giving. Following are nine tips to stress-free family Christmas shopping:

1. Plan ahead 
Make arrangements to shop in small increments during the weeks before Christmas, and not all on Black Friday, either. Make it your goal to have all of your shopping done in plenty of time to enjoy December.

2. Make a List, and Stick to It 
Next to each person’s name, write down an idea or two to choose from to make it easy to refer to when trying to decide between one item or another, while a child is tugging on your clothes or fidgeting to get out of a cart. In fact, if you have a child who is old enough, make a game out of it by assigning the task of checking off the list as you shop.

3. Avoid Crowds 
Of course, some people like the hustle and bustle of a crowded mall. For the rest of the holiday shoppers, it’s a good idea for your stress level to try to shop during off times. This means, if you can, shop during the morning, after lunch or right around 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. when many people are rushing home from work or eating dinner. Try to avoid weekends, lunch hour or on a Friday night. If your work schedule allows it, take a vacation day just to shop alone.

4. Stick to a Budget 
One of the biggest stress points of Christmas shopping is when the bills arrive. As boring or ridged as it sounds, making a budget before you begin to shop is the best way to avoid unpleasant stress that comes with overspending.

5. Bring a Snack 
Especially if you are shopping with small children, you will want to make sure you have a healthy snack to pull out when you start to feel the pressure and slumping fatigue of shopping. Bring a protein bar, raisins, fruit chew packets or whatever is your and your child’s favorite snack.

6. Dress Comfortably 
High heels and finest attire is best left behind in your closet when it comes time to get down to serious shopping. You will most likely be doing a great deal of walking, so make sure your feet have the appropriate footwear for the job. Also, consider dressing in layers so you are warm enough outside but not overheated inside varied temperature stores.

7. Take a Break 
Marathon shopping stress can hit all of a sudden, with little warning. Suddenly you, or small children with you, hit the wall. Slow down, make it a family memory instead of a goal-driven event. Take a break, and sit on a bench inside the mall to just watch people pass by. Or, sit down in a coffee shop or bakery to enjoy a special treat until you refresh to take on more gift buying.

8. Save Receipts 
While you’re shopping, make sure to ask for a gift receipt. Include it with your gift to save any undue stress or embarrassment if the recipient wants to exchange the item.

9. Shop Online 
Of course, it’s quite convenient to just set aside an afternoon and shop at your fingertips, on your computer or mobile device.

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