Love it or hate it, shopping may actually have some positive effects on our mood. But money troubles or being unable to say no can cause major unease— and even literal nightmaresFinancial stress, attitudes toward money, and scores on a Dream Inventory. Kroth, J., Mann, S., Cervantes, C., et al. Santa Clara University, Santa Clara, CA. Psychological Reports, 2010 Aug;107(1):173-6.. Let’s dream about dancing sugarplums instead and skip the gift-giving terrors.

Shop Stress-Free — Your Action Plan

Budget: Don’t just pick a number out of thin air. Make a list of everyone receiving gifts this year and come up with individual budgets. Then assess whether that total amount is doable, and rework each gift if it’s not. (Keep reading for money-saving tips!)

Plan: Shop on pre-planned days. Small purchases scattered throughout the month can add up faster than expected. Plus, planning helps avoid repeat trips to the same stores. Consider whether a few people on the list could receive the same gifts or presents from the same places. (Just don’t mix up the Vickie’s Secrets gifts for your mom and girlfriend.) Fewer lines, less driving, and simpler budgeting— that was easy!

Dress for Success: Wear clothing especially reserved for holidays— it’ll be associated with positive memories, encouraging an upbeat mood. Or if holiday clothes are a little too “Ugly Sweater Party,” suit up in gym gear. In a time crunch, shopping can pretty much stand in for a workout.

Skip Yourself: The holiday budget probably doesn’t have a ton of wiggle room for “me gifts.” Instead of bowling over the crowds for a big-screen TV deal, focus on others. Hint heavily to receive things off that personal wish list, or wait to hit up the January sales. After all, buying for others may bring even more happiness than buying for ourselvesSpending money on others promotes happiness. Dunn, E.W., Aknin, L.B., Norton, M.I. Department of Psychology, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, Canada. Science, 2008 Mar 21;319(5870):1687-8..

Make Like Martha: If it’s the thought that counts (i.e. if money is especially tight), turn a hobby into a gift-making sesh and hang two ornaments with one tree branch. (Yeah, we went there.) By boosting creativity and self-esteem, hobbies can be a better way to relieve stress than passive activities like watching the tube. Plus, homemade gifts may be cheaper and seem more personal. Handmade jewelry or baked goods are perfect for the girl or guy who has everything.

Simplify: Not to get too mushy, but aren’t the holidays really about spending time with loved ones? If all the shopping is just too much, skip the stress and buy gift cards. They’re the most-wanted Christmas gift anyway and leave more time for caroling and cocoa.