1320885969y6i5ExThose of you that have been reading for awhile will recognize this as the cheap and easy ploy that it is – the holiday rerun. That’s right, I said holiday. It’s never too early. Retail stores tell us it’s that time. Kmart began advertising their Christmas layaway plan well before Halloween. This year, I will be prepared.

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 I’m not prepared. Either mentally or physically. I have no money, no time, and very little good cheer. Not that I’m a Grinch. I’m not. I’m as pleasant as usual. But it seems this time of year requires extra pleasantness when all I really want to do is be left alone to don my sweatpants and eat a big plate of Christmas cookies. Baked by somebody else, of course.

I attempted to commiserate with a friend a while ago. I should have known by the carol music playing in her car well before Thanksgiving that I was barking up the wrong Christmas tree. Turns out she’s Martha Stewart’s fourth cousin twice removed. She’s had her shopping done since October.

If you’re also kin to Martha, then by all means, bake, shop and decorate away! The season is what it is because of you and your 10-foot trees and chocolate rum balls. If, however, you’re more like me — here are a few of my survival tips:

One for all. This year, almost everyone in my family is getting the same thing. It isn’t unthoughtful if you put a lot of care into picking that one item. You’re really just taking a great idea and duplicating it. I have a standard wedding present that gets rave reviews — delivered champagne and chocolates. A friend has a favorite bereavement gift that includes a comforting, soft blanket and beautiful engraved wind chimes. Giving in mass works for friends and co-workers too. A variety of teas, cocoa and a candy cane with a nice bar of chocolate in 20 mini-stockings and you’re good to go.

Bag it. Do yourself a favor. Use gift bags instead of wrapping paper. Avoid the hassle of needing the scissors, tape and bows. Or better still, opt for gift wrapping if it’s free.

Just say no. Don’t feel obligated to do everything. There’s a reason more people get sick this time of year and it usually involves burning the Menorah at both ends. I’m not suggesting you skip the office Christmas party and all of the good gossip that entails, but you don’t have to R.S.V.P. yes to every invite in the mail. Speaking of mail, one thing I’m forgoing this year is holiday cards. Skip the stress of that terrible moment when you open a card from the neighbor you left off your list. And I’ve never been the family newsletter type. I find that when you write a blog, people you’ve never met know your life story anyway.

‘Tis better to give … Instead of buying one more anything for the person who has everything, why not experience the joy of giving to someone who really needs it? Let the people on your list know that this year you will be doing something charitable with your holiday budget. Who can gripe about that? I found so many organizations online and ways to give, it’s hard to pick just one. Help nationally through the Salvation Army, Toys for Tots or Make a Wish Foundation. Or research programs in your area. Provide presents for a low-income family, shop for children with a parent in prison or give to the victims of domestic violence. How about helping make the holidays brighter for the family of a fallen military soldier? Pick what tugs at your heartstrings the most.

“Get it yourself!” Let them buy what they really want. Gift cards are quick to purchase, easy to redeem, and can be slipped in a stocking. Plus, you avoid the risk of buying the wrong thing in the wrong size.

If you’re still feeling overwhelmed, there’s always egg nog. Sane animals usually hibernate this time of year. So, take a tip from nature: unplug the phone, stay in your pajamas, and don’t come out till it’s 2012. It’ll all be over soon.