12/11/2013 09:07 EST | Updated 02/10/2014 05:59 EST

12 Sanity Saving Tips for the Final Shopping Days Before Christmas

I used up my quota of enthusiasm and patience for crowded malls and congested parking lots between the ages of 14 and 24. I used to love shopping, more so window shopping, especially if those windows were adorned with SALE signs and veiled promises of "Up to 60% off." Now those signs just register anxiety in my psyche.

With the holiday shopping season in full force, my requisite ventures into the sweaty shops of my local malls and power centres need to be purposeful, successful (like finding the original Wii, not the WiiU, version of Disney Infinity -- who knew?) and time-saving. I've found a dozen ways to make those long line ups and general holiday hustle and bustle productive, amusing and sanity saving.

1. Be Prepared. Seriously -- searching for that elusive perfect gift among all the kitch and clutter would drive anyone mad, especially with the hum of screaming babies, frantic teens, boisterous families and that guy hacking on the back of my neck! Try browsing online in the comfort of your home (preferably with a glass of wine) first to get some ideas of what's out there and reserve the foot traffic to specific buys.

2. Bring Water. You need to stay hydrated to stay the course. You'll feel better, stay refreshed and less likely to get overtired. And watch what you drink the night before. If you've been to one too many holiday parties and end up a little hung over, the last thing you need is an elixir of holiday cheer.

3. Lose the Jacket! I know, I know -- I'm a mom too, but layers of clothes, jackets and scarves can weigh anyone down. Now add bags, hot congested stores and long line-ups. Despite what I tell my kids, you won't necessarily catch a cold between the car and the mall entrance.

4. Take Breaks. Actually schedule time during your shopping to stop, sit and regroup. This is not supposed to be a marathon or an obstacle course. If you're going with friends or family it will make the experience much more enjoyable. This is especially important if you are bringing kids.

5. Get a Sitter. Kids are not meant to soldier on through a crowded mall for eight hours of intense shopping. We've all done it and let's face it, there is no joy in bribing a kid through "one more store" under the guise that "daddy will love the colour you pick." This one act should be considered a public service and will qualify for your daily act of kindness.

6. Declutter your Social Media. Long line-ups are the perfect occasion to Unfollow all those annoying people who follow you on Twitter only to unfollow the next week just to build their community. #byebye

7. Be Sensible. Hey hotties -- no one is really checking you out at the mall. None of my friends ever met their husbands or partners while scurrying through a crowded mall. Just say no to heels and platform boots. Be sensible and let's just see who's the last one standing.

8. People Watch. We don't do enough of that any more. And it can be a lot of fun. With our heads buried deep in our smart phones (see Tip #6) a lot of us don't take the time to actually watch the people around us. If the line is incredibly long or imagination serves, build a world in your head around a random stranger -- their family, job, first kiss, most awkward moment, favourite show. Just try not to laugh out loud when envisioning their bedroom antics.

9. Channel the Queen. Smile and wave, randomly, at the people in the car next to you -- sure they'll think you're out on a day pass but it's fun to watch peoples perplexed expressions, especially if your kids are in on it, and you just may illicit a smile back. Smiling releases endorphins and reduces stress; try it, you may improve someone's mood.

10. Save your Credit. Try to shop with a budget, or at least try to shop with cash. You'll be surprised how many impulse buys are thwarted when you have a limited pool available. Even better, use up every gift card you have lying around -- you'll de-clutter your cupboards and reduce the January Jolt of your credit card bill.

11. Buy Online. Much as I hated doing this, especially for clothes and shoes, I've finally relented and in the time it would have taken me to find a parking spot at Costco I ordered my kid's star-wars Lego and rocket blaster, which will come wrapped and delivered to my door for free! Booyah!

12. Be Nice. Really, isn't this what the meaning of the holidays is supposed to be -- a time of celebration, reflection and setting the course for a new year. After all, Santa's watching.

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays & Happy Shopping!


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