Black Friday and Cyber Monday, historically the busiest retail shopping day(s) of the year) are over. Were you one of the ones who braved the masses looking for bargains?If so, you’re braver than me, my day was spent relaxing, writing articles, walking my dog and enjoying the beauty of the crisp air. Most of my shopping is already done and I plan on enjoying the spirit of the season, to me that is much more important than material gifts.With that thought, and no matter how you spent your day, take a moment with me and relax, take a deep breath, hold it for a moment, then slowly let it flow out completely. As it does, imagine the cares and troubles of the day disappearing. Do that for a minute or two every day and your stress will be greatly reduced. Now, onto some shopping tips for the holidays.My belief is shopping as early as possible, and no, I don’t mean 5am the day after Thanksgiving, I mean before (or at a different time) than the multitudes invade the malls. A few weeks ago I made a list of gifts for this season, they weren’t extravagant, however they were nice and I expect they’ll be appreciated. Armed with this list I went to the mall on an evening I felt most of the public would be at home. This allowed me to shop without pushing and shoving, to easily find parking and also spy a number of bargains before they were sold out for the season.NOTE: Your Christmas list is an important ingredient, not only will it keep your budget in line, it will save you wandering the store waiting for gift inspiration to visit.While some days are a diamond, others a stone, I always try to be polite. By doing so, not only am I participating in the Christmas spirit, I’m also communicating the fact I’m friendly, in turn I attract friendly people. Take a moment, wherever you are, whomever you’re with to say thank you and smile. It will be appreciated and bring a touch of warmth to your soul.Manage your debt. While this isn’t an article about credit cards, PLEASE use your plastic with care, otherwise January will bring a level of stress that will take the magic out of the memories.Personally I DO NOT use credit cards for my purchases. I try (sometimes better than others) to live debt free, it allows me not to have the stress of bill collectors calling and making the credit card companies wealthy. When I find something I simply MUST have, but can’t afford it, instead of plastic, I place it on layaway. Since I shop early, this gives me ample time to pay as my budget allows.The Internet is no longer in its infancy, and while there are still problems in cyberspace, consider doing at least some of your shopping online. With the click of a mouse you can compare prices, browse photos, read reviews and order with convenience. How do I avoid using credit cards here? I use my bank card, other times a cash card, and often Paypal. A good friend of mine works for one of the major televised shopping networks; while sometimes they contain a good measure of hype, other times you can find a real bargain. Take a look, but don’t make impulsive purchases.TIP: Staying within your budget, buy a few extra gifts, such as chocolate or scented candles (not fruitcake again!) for unexpected guests or friends who stop by.Use the catalogs, most (if not all) of the greatest companies on the planet have dynamic websites where you can order from their catalog. But do it early, even the largest companies will experience the Christmas rush. Consider paying a bit extra for gift wrapping which will save you time on this end.Don’t forget teachers, doctors, office mates, the mailman, etc. While it’s not expected, it is VERY much appreciated when you remember them with a small keepsake. Years ago my mother and father made a practice of giving simple gifts to the waitresses at their local restaurant. Believe me; they received excellent service all year long.Christmas is a time for giving, but that doesn’t necessarily mean just your money, give of your time, your heart and your spirit. By doing so, not only will you avoid the stress of the bill collector, you’ll be building memories to last a lifetime.