12/02/2014 10:33 EST | Updated 12/19/2014 11:59 EST

Holiday Tricks: 11 Ways To Make Shopping Easier This Holiday Season

Betsie Van der Meer via Getty Images

The lights are up, holiday window displays have been unveiled, and you’re looking for the right item for everyone on your list. If you’ve already bought your presents — congratulations! (Also, wow.) If not, we have shopping strategies that will help you get the perfect gift in the shortest amount of time.

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What do they like?

There’s nothing more stressful than shopping without a clue of what to buy people. That’s how you end up buying those gifts that no one uses (we’re sorry, but it’s true). So before you decide that basket of vanilla body lotion is the one, take the time to really think about that person.

What do they like and what are their hobbies? That is the perfect place to start making your list.

Make a list

Speaking of lists — make one before you start shopping. None of this on-the-fly stuff; you’ll save hours in the malls by showing up prepared. It will help keep you on budget and you won’t forget anyone on your list! Don’t forget to add gift paper, tape and ribbons.

And don’t be afraid to ask the people in your life if they have their own wish lists already made. Some people might think this would ruin the surprise, but it won’t. Ask for their lists and then choose an item off that list; there’s still an element of surprise but you know they’ll love your present. (This works really, really well with children.)

Think big, go small

You might want to get the biggest bang for your buck, but that often leads to the dreaded gift basket of unwanted things. Remember, it's not the size of the gift; it's the meaning behind it. So forget that gift basket and buy a small bottle of their favourite perfume or cologne for the same price.

Check out their social networks

Instagram, Pinterest and online wish lists are great resources. By checking these sites, you can get a firm idea of what your friends and family like. Do they pin a lot of travel photos or cosmetics? Why not get them a new camera or some fabulous new makeup?

Comparison shop at home

Do all your prep work before you set foot in a store. Comparison-shop to find the best items and the best deals. Don’t forget to look for store discounts or coupons — they’ll help you stay on budget and can save you a little cash.

Maximize your location

Once you have your list, take a look and figure out where you can find most of them. You’ll be surprised at how many items can be bought within a narrow geographical location.

You could go to multiple stores or you could stick to one store or website. Choose a store (or website) that offers the most bang for your buck and time. This way, you can get all your shopping done at one.

Make a plan

Group your gift shopping so that you maximize your time in each department or floor. For example, group cosmetics, jewellery, and perfume as they are often found on the same shopping level.

Use store experts

Still stuck on that one last gift? Talk to the experts in the store (or look up reviews online). They will know the stock better than anyone and can offer suggestions, often ones you’ve never thought of. You might find that unique gift for the person in your life.

Here’s another reason to work with store staff: They will able to hold items for you if you’re not quite ready to buy, check other locations, and arrange to have the item shipped to you.

Personalize your emails

These days you can personalize shopping emails to be year-round holiday lists. You can customize them by item type or by hobby or even by age. By doing this, you’ll have a good idea of what’s available for everyone on your list. Also, you'll often get to shop first or get access to exclusive discounts.

Go alone

Want to get your shopping done quickly and remain in a good mood? Go alone. You can shop at your own pace and not have to worry about anyone else. Take that list and hit the sales floor. No friends allowed!

Avoid peak times (If you can)

This means weekends during the afternoon and evenings during the week. If you can, try to get to the store first thing in the morning before the crowds descend. Not only will it be pretty empty, the store will be fresh, and the sales people will be in high spirits.