Sure, the holidays are supposed to be a time of festive cheer, but the reality is that they can suck a good mood out of the most positive among us. According to Consumer Reports, 90 percent of Americans say they get stressed out over at least one aspect of the season.

Here are just several of the most dreaded things we hate about Christmas, for instance:

  • Dealing with crowds
  • Ending up in debt after it’s all over
  • Shopping for gifts (we spend an average of 19 hours shopping for perfect presents)
  • Traveling
  • Feeling obligated to attend holiday parties and events

5 Ways To Save Time (and Your Sanity) During The Holidays

If you truly want to avoid the crunch — and the most stressful aspects of the season, you can take steps to manage both your time and your money. Consider these five helpful tips to get you started on a holiday you may actually look forward to:

1. Budget, budget, budget

This may seem like a no-brainer, but how many people actually take the time to review anticipated holiday expenses, map out a strategy for budgeting and actually stick to it? Let’s just say, it’s not likely 90 percent. Commit to a budget that takes into account all aspects of your holiday spending, from food and gifts to that party dress and holiday decorations. Then, regularly make tweaks to your spending to make sure you don’t exceed your budget.

2. Keep it Simple

There are plenty of ways you can cut corners and preserve your precious time. It’s not necessary to spend 19 hours shopping for gifts for your friends and family. Nor should it take 10 hours to put up all your holiday decorations and another 20 hours to prepare an extravagant dinner party. Consider shortcuts to your tasks. For example, choosing a prelit Christmas tree over a live tree could shave off hours from that task alone. And, while some people may not favor this idea, give the younger people on your list gift cards. This could be one way to cut hours from a time-consuming task. And, more than likely, your gift recipients may appreciate the ability to make their own purchases. (However, it’s probably not a good idea to take this route with your significant other … don’t even think about it).

3. Start Early

Does the prospect of standing in line for an hour — after shopping for two hours — make you break out in a sweat? Who says you have to wait until the day after Thanksgiving to get on the holiday shopping treadmill? Go against tradition and make your purchases two to three months before the holidays. You’ll face less stress and shorter lines.

4. Shop Online

 More and more Americans enjoying the freedom of shopping online in their jammies while sitting on the couch — a laptop in one hand and a cup of coffee or some other liquid refreshment in the other. That amounts to little to no stress. To make your online shopping more effective, have your gifts in mind before surfing.

5. Put a Limit on your Holiday Activities

Face it … most of us hate to say “No.” When we’re in the season of holiday cheer, that simple word becomes even harder to utter. If you find yourself grimacing every time you get a holiday party invitation, it may be time to curtail your commitments to a more reasonable number. Express your thanks but decline one or two invitations. As a sincere gesture, you can drop off a bottle of wine or holiday dessert the day before the event. Likewise, you may decide not to host your own event or make it less elaborate, like a 2-hour brunch instead of a 4-hour holiday dinner.

With just a few steps and plenty of planning, you can take back control of your holidays and make them more enjoyable for you and your family.