Holiday shopping made easy (or easier!)

When I tell you I can make holiday shopping easier, I really can. I've been on this merry-go-round with three kids for years, and I know all the tricks of the gift-buying trade. No, I'm not going to tell you to hit the internet (although online shopping, at times, can be pretty convenient). Instead, I'm going to tell you how to get all the presents on your list in one day without breaking a sweat (or your bank account).

Make a list. Never, and I repeat never, go holiday shopping without a well-outlined list. List all the gifts and wrapping supplies you need, like gift bags, shirt boxes, tape, etc. Then, break down your list by store. You now have a clearly-defined gameplan. Do not veer from this plan.

Set a budget. Now that you know what you need, you should price everything. Apps like flipp, which have digital versions of all the week's flyers, are super useful, as you can search by store or product. What is the best price for each of the items you need? Sticking to a budget will eliminate frivolous, pricey impulse buying.

Give yourself time. Avoid being uptight and frustrated with the shopping process by ensuring you have a generous window of free time to get everything done. The parking lots are full and the malls are crowded (and the shoppers can be grumpy) - don't get caught in that trap. Many stores have extended hours at this time of year, so devote and evening or two to tackling your shopping to-dos, or, if you can, book an afternoon off work.

Go solo. Nothing is more distracting than having a shopping buddy, whether it's a friend or your kids. Try and stick to shopping on your own and you'll get a lot more done and a lot quicker too.

Take advantage of card points, loyalty programs and more. If you have a credit card that offers cash-back rewards or other bonus points, use them for your purchases (and then, of course, go home and pay it off with the cash you would've used). Also, loyalty programs like an MList Card can offer substantial discounts and rebates.

Take advantage of in-store help. Stores clerks always have the most knowledge of the products at-hand if you have questions or need recommendations.

Melany xx