Ask most of us and we’ll tell you we love the holidays – even if we can’t actually remember that in the midst of frantic classroom parties and rushed gift purchases. Too often the ideal view of warm slippers and wine by the fireplace in the light of the Christmas tree is shoved aside by frantic dashes to school concerts, required work parties and late nights of wrapping so that something – anything – is ready for Christmas morning.

But this year can be different. You may not be able to skip the mandatory work bashes, but you can streamline things a bit to give yourself some breathing room. Then maybe you can try that wine by the fire routine at least once between now and New Years!

Create a Treasure Trove

You can’t avoid shopping for gifts if you have family and close friends, but you can use that shopping time to protect yourself from future emergency trips. While you’re out picking out the perfect gift for someone, why not grab a couple extra bottles of wine, some nice candles, some nice books and beautifully packaged chocolates.

Make a little stash of luxury, yet not very expensive, gifts for emergencies. Then, when you realize you forgot the teacher gift or get invited to a last-minute get-together, your gifts are at hand and ready. Best of all, at the end of the season you can return anything you didn’t use or just enjoy that wine and chocolate yourself!

Ship Now. Ship Quickly

The best time to buy things online has already passed – it was at or before Thanksgiving. But now that we are in the peak shipping season, hedge your bets. Only buy from companies that have reasonably reliable shipping in the past – this is not the time to try out an unknown company.

Also, have items shipped directly to you rather than to your friend or family member. This allows you to check over the items, package them more securely and then ship them off again. This might add a few days to the process, but it gives you a chance to include a personal note and be sure you’re actually sending what you mean to be sending.

Don’t be afraid to pay extra for high-quality and fast shipping. If it’s worth it to you to skip the mall parking lot, it’s probably worth an extra $5 on shipping. Free shipping isn’t usually fast shipping after all.

Buy Local

The big stores may have big sales, but they also have big crowds. Small, local retailers are trying to move their merchandise, too. Best of all, you can shop with fewer people crowded around you, you might be able to skip freeways and wild parking lots and you can support the people who actually live and work in your community.

You don’t even have to stick to your own local stores. If you want to send flowers or edible arrangements, skip the big companies plastered all over the internet. Do some digging for local companies in the city you’re actually sending the flowers or treats to.

Those companies will often be glad to deliver in their area, and since you’re talking to a real person in a real store, you’re more likely to get what you actually ordered delivered to the right person in the right way.

Buying extra candles and shopping online won’t make the classroom Christmas parties for your children any more tolerable, but they will help reduce a few stresses of the season. Simplify what you can and then use the time you’re saving to sit back, surround yourself with loved ones and simply enjoy the season the way you’ve always meant to.