(CNN) -- Long lines, crowded stores and parking lots filled to the brim are only some of the challenges holiday shoppers face in the winter months.
We asked CNN.com readers to share their shopping tips, philosophies and plans of attack as the holiday season gets into full swing. Here is a selection of their responses, some of which have been edited for length and clarity.
Kathy Mathers, Powhatan Point, Ohio
I like to shop around Thanksgiving when the official start of the shopping season begins. By pushing Christmas early we throw away both Halloween and Thanksgiving. I was put off when I started to see Christmas decorations and gifts at local malls before Halloween arrived. I was irritated when I started to see the same trend in our little town.
Susan Robison, Mundelein, Illinois
I have young teenagers, and the number of presents seems to have gone down as the total cost went up. I make a list of what to get everyone and try to get whatever I can on the Internet. Then I run out to the mall for the rest when I expect there to be no crowds. I have never waited in line for the start of Black Friday; my sanity is worth more than saving $20 on a digital camera. Christmas advertising is starting too early and is taking away from Halloween and Thanksgiving.
C. Paulette McDowell, Lucasville, Ohio
I begin getting ready for Christmas in January. By November and December, all I have to do is enjoy the music, the church plays, cooking with my family and hopefully snowy weather. I spend time watching holiday movies and visiting family. No hassle. If you really prepare you don't have to dread.
Melissa DelaCalzada, San Diego, California
The best time to start holiday shopping is just days before Christmas! I am the ultimate procrastinator when it comes to holiday shopping, since I'm not a shopper to begin with and I hate crowds. December 22-24 are GREAT days to shop for me, since I find that most people are done with shopping or have already left town for the holidays, so malls tend to not be overcrowded. Things like the "Day after Thanksgiving Day sales" (Black Friday) do not appeal to me at all. I just hate watching news clips of people running over others to get a sale item, let alone waiting in a mile-long line when it's really, really cold out!
Kathy White, Virginia Beach, Virginia
After recent years of shopping online, I forgot what mall shopping was like, so tried it once again over Thanksgiving weekend. It only took a few minutes to remember why I began shopping online. Poor selection of merchandise, crowds and long lines. No more store shopping for me.
Ken Wayne, Erie, Pennsylvania
Best time to Christmas shop: lunch time on the Internet
Claressa Lapham, Lawrenceville, New Jersey
I live in New Jersey, [one of the] the most populous state[s], so any shopping we do is when the stores first open, and during the holidays we can't even find a parking space, even early in the morning. It's insane! So now we drive over to Pennsylvania to do our Christmas shopping. And I find I'm doing more buying on the Internet.
Margaret Evans, Portland, Oregon
My thought about the shopping season is to be patient. Your cards will decline because the phone lines to the credit card authorization center will be jammed. This happens every holiday season. Also be gracious to other shoppers. The stress is on, and we all need to be patient.