It's time to talk turkey. Not about leftovers, but about shopping.
Before you hit the mall running with the other marathon shoppers, panicked at the prospect of only so many shopping days left before Hanukkah and Christmas, take a few moments to plan your foray. By mapping out your strategy, you can avoid the dreaded B's bruises, bankruptcy and befuddlement.
Consider these tips:
* Just like Santa, make a list. Include the approximate amount of money you want to spend on each person, keeping the total dollars on a realistic level.
* Don't drag young children along. Arrange for a baby sitter so you'll be able to concentrate on your shopping, not their squabbling. On a less crowded day, plan a shopping expedition just for them to select gifts they'll want to give, visit Santa and share a special lunch.
* Do advance comparison shopping using newspaper ads, advertising supplements and store mailers for sale prices and ideas. Many stores carry the same items and brands, but one may have what you're seeking on sale.
* Be reasonable in your expectations no one gets all their holiday shopping done in one day except certain people who rush out on Dec. 24, secure in the knowledge that their spouses already took care of most of the gift buying.
* Don't shop 'til you drop. Take time for a cup of tea and plan to stop for lunch. You'll feel better physically and mentally.
* Look for special "gift with purchase" offers, particularly popular in the cosmetic industry this time of year. Offers range from things like tote bags and photo frames with women's perfumes to watches and umbrellas with men's colognes.
* Look for "incentive purchase" offers, in which buying a minimum amount at one store entitles you to another, otherwise unobtainable item at a special price.
* If sizes are involved in your gift plans, get them in advance and write them down.
* When buying for children, consult parents for advice. You're more likely to get the child what he or she wants and the child is less likely to end up with three Etch-A-Sketches.
* Check return policies before buying gifts. Some stores have liberal policies and will even refund cash, while others allow only exchanges and some consider all sales final.
* Keep all receipts. Mark on the back what the item is and who it is for and then put all receipts in one envelope. This will simplify any returns that need to be made. When cutting off price tags, leave the Universal Pricing bar code on if possible the recipient won't be able to tell what the price was, but it will make it easier to exchange or return.