It’s that time of year when gift-buying gets serious. I tend to wait until the last minute, (which I think is a totally legit tactic, see below) but many are already in the throes of present-getting, and the stress that comes with it. Here's some ideas to lower anxiety and save some bucks. 


Buy a few: Most of us have more than one group of people to shop for — office pals, adult family members, best friends, kids’ teachers and babysitters — usually these folks don’t know each other, they just all happen to know you. So here’s a money- and sanity-saving idea: buy a few of the same thing. Say you find a great deal that is a kind of universally loved item, like a beautiful organic Tuscan olive oil. If you buy in multiples (especially with Cyber Monday deals), you will save money (and resources) on shipping, and will also knock more than one person off your gift list. And even if, somehow, two friends in two different groups happen to find out that you gave them the same thing, as long as that thing is great, nobody is going to care.


One gift max: I think one thoughtful gift is better than a few little "fun" ones. Most people would rather receive something they will actually use — a good-quality pair of gloves, a kitchen implement, or a brand-new book by their favorite author. Buying just one gift for each person on your list means you can spend more time having fun with wrapping (plus less to wrap!) and it is more likely that your present will be used, which is the most sustainable way to go. It seems like more is better, but when it comes to gifts, it’s the ones that last that make the biggest impact come January and beyond.


Take advantage of free shipping: Easy to find on Cyber Monday, as well as for the rest of the month, free shipping can make the difference between keeping a budget over the holidays and completely blowing it. Remember, if you’ve budgeted $25 for Aunt May and you find the perfect saucepan for $24.99 and you have to add tax and shipping to that, you are going to come out closer to $34. Cutting out shipping costs (remember driving to the mall or downtown also costs money in gas and parking) is one of the best ways to save and cut down on the schlepping. 


Wait until the last minute: Every year, there are plenty of last-minute deals. Bide your time and wait until the week before Christmas and you can save even more. (I'm guessing that this year due to the poor economy, deals will be better than ever). 


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Starre Vartan ( @ecochickie ) covers conscious consumption, health and science as she travels the world exploring new cultures and ideas.

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