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    Tips to solve all your holiday shopping problems

    “This time of year, with the office parties and the family visits, and having to shop for everyone you know — I’m truly thankful that I’m inside.” One convict to another in a December 2003, New Yorker magazine cartoon.

    But must it be thus? Perhaps not. Here’s some stress-reducing shopping advice for the non-incarcerated.

    Step one

    At the mall, don’t circle for a spot near the door. Head immediately for the periphery of the lot. You’ll save yourself a lot of frustration and get some exercise.

    Step two

    When you find yourself tensing up, pretend you’re a character in a sitcom to gain perspective on the absurdity of it all.

    Step three


    Make sure you’re OK with your outfit before hitting the stores. There’s nothing worse than being constantly confronted with an unsatisfactory reflection.

    Step four

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    Follow consumer psychologist Kit Yarrow’s five steps for foolproof gift giving.

    When the recipient is a challenge to buy for because he or she is:


    “Get her the very, very best of something small,” Yarrow said. “It could be the finest tea, candle, maple syrup, or fancy salt that money can buy. Most wealthy people still economize on the basics and it will feel extravagant.”

    Ridiculously picky

    Get a gift card,” Yarrow said, “but make it special. Bury it in a container of M&M’s, tuck it into a new pair of socks, attach it to a box of their favorite cereal. Find a small something that you know they’ll use and then make that the ‘thought that counts’ part of the gift.”



    Get a special, wonderful food gift,” Yarrow advised. “After they eat it, it’s gone! Alternatively, give flowers or a container of flower bulbs like Paperwhites that they can watch bloom over the next month. If you know of their favorite charity [not yours but theirs] a donation in their name also does the trick.”

    Difficult to figure out

    “Overwhelm them with an abundance of something you’ve seen them use and know they’ll enjoy,” Yarrow said. “An entire case of tennis balls; six tiny flashlights — one for each coat pocket and glove box; a case of pocket pack tissues or eyeglass wipes.”


    “If all else fails,” Yarrow said, “lift a flattering photo from Facebook and frame it.”