You may have noticed that holiday decorations are up everywhere. Of course, they’ve been up since September. Perhaps they’ve become standard decor in your eyes. They’ve lost the cue that you should be shopping for holiday gifts and should have been doing so since September. In any event, it’s down to the wire. Time to shop.

Out of principle, I refuse to shop for the holidays until after Thanksgiving. It’s like I’m telling retailers, “You can put up lighted reindeer and fake trees for three months, but you can’t make me buy gifts until I’m ready!” In the end, I’m frazzled and can’t find half of what I need. I hate shopping. I don’t like shopping for myself or for anyone else.

I have devised a strategy for shopping without actually shopping. Thank goodness for the Internet. First, I read magazines. I look at Wired for tech gifts, Food Network for foodies, Victoria’s Secret catalogs for lady friends, and Williams Sonoma catalogs for kitchen stuff. Then I get online.

I locate the gifts I have chosen or search the sites for ideas similar to what I have seen. For example, a skillet in one magazine may prompt me to search for a cast iron skillet that someone mentioned they wanted. When I find the item I want, I do a little comparison shopping with Amazon and other sellers. I NEVER buy from a site I have no experience with or from overseas because I cannot be certain I will receive the gift in time…or at all.

When I have found the item and brand and what I believe to be the best price, I look for discounts, online coupons, and promo codes. There are tons of sites that provide these and very few that actually work. The Google Chrome extension called “honey” searches for deals and codes and can be a time saver for these searches.

Make sure you check the sites for free shipping deals or other promo codes listed right on the landing page of the site. Take advantage of as many of these as you are allowed. A great example is Sephora.com. If you purchase a fragrance, depending on the price, you may be eligible for free shipping. A coupon code on the landing page provides a free cosmetic bag with a dozen free skincare samples in it and with each order, customers may choose three of twelve samples of fragrances or skincare products. It’s a great way to add a few stocking stuffers with no extra effort!

Speaking of stocking stuffers, I have to throw in a shout-out to Blue Q for the funniest, most innovative, semi-offensive, inexpensive stocking stuffers out there. Check them out. You won’t be disappointed.

So, if you don’t like shopping, plan through reading magazines and complete by surfing the web. You still have to shop, but you don’t have to fight through the crowds for the last dented box Kindle or slightly scratched jewelry box.