SOURCE: BMO Harris Bank

December 17, 2012 09:12 ET

Eight Tips to Ease Last Minute Shopping Stress

CHICAGO, IL--(Marketwire - Dec 17, 2012) - It's the time of year for caroling, holiday cheer and, for some of us, frantic last minute shopping. Finishing up your holiday shopping doesn't have to be stressful and can even be fun with a bit of planning.

"Between our children's activities, holiday parties, visiting family and putting up decorations, we're all extremely busy this time of year, so planning is critical," says Shana Ford, BMO Harris Vice President and Helpful Steps for Parents blogger. "If you've not yet finished your holiday shopping, there are many things to do to get the family involved and make shopping for those last minute gifts as painless as possible."

Consider these tips Ford suggests for taking care of your last minute shopping.

1. First things first. Do an inventory of what you've already purchased and how much you've spent before you shop more. Make a list of what you have left to get and decide when you can work in a few hours to finish up your shopping.

2. Get the family involved. Take an evening to bake with the family or make some simple craft projects for homemade gifts. Have the children do handmade cards from construction paper, crayons, stickers or whatever you have on hand. It will be a great family activity, and the personalized gifts will be appreciated, particularly by grandparents, aunts and uncles, teachers and coaches.
If you have older teens who can shop by themselves, give them part of the gift list and some cash to divide and conquer the shopping duties. They will benefit from the responsibility, and you will get your shopping done in half the time.

3. Make a day of it. Consider taking a day off if you have vacation days left. This will allow you to shop during slower store hours and enjoy a bit of time to yourself once you're done.

4. Put it in a basket. Make a kit for a spa night, movie night or barbecue bash filled with everything the recipient needs. Most of these items you can pick up at the grocery or drug store so you don't have to make a special trip. To save even more time, get some decorated boxes. Let the kids help box up the items and tie a bow around it.

5. Head for the nearest gift shop. If there's a museum, zoo or university on the way home from work or near your home, check it out next time you are passing by to look for an interesting and unique gift.

6. Shop Online. Many online stores offer free shipping this time of year, and you can shop at your convenience.

7. Consider gift cards. For last minute shopping it's hard to beat gift cards. Most stores and restaurants have them and many grocery and drug stores have a variety of gift cards on kiosks, so you can pick them up during a regular shopping trip. Your bank also has gift cards that you can pick up when you stop in to do your banking.

8. The perfect gift is cash. It's not particularly creative, but it's always the right size and the right color and no one ever returns it. Visit your local bank and ask for crisp, new bills. Most banks will have a supply of pristine bills and provide you with free holiday decorated money envelopes to put them in.

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About BMO Harris Bank

Based in Chicago, BMO Harris Bank N.A. provides a broad range of personal banking products and solutions through over 600 branches and approximately 1,300 ATMs in Illinois, Wisconsin, Indiana, Kansas, Missouri, Minnesota, Nevada, Arizona and Florida. BMO Harris Bank's commercial banking team provides a combination of sector expertise, local knowledge and mid-market focus throughout the U.S. Deposit and loan products and services provided by BMO Harris Bank N.A. Member FDIC. BMO Harris Bank (SM) is a trade name used by BMO Harris Bank N.A. BMO Harris Bank is part of BMO Financial Group, a North American financial organization with 1,600 branches, and a retail deposit base of approximately $180 billion.

Shana Ford is a BMO Harris Bank vice-president and branch manager, based out of Minnesota. A mother of five, Shana has ten-year-old twin boys, two daughters, aged 12 and 26, and a 19-year-old son. She has more than 20 years of experience teaching financial education to families and community organizations, and has organized financial literacy classes for schools and nonprofit education centers.

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