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9 Productive Things to Do While You Wait in Line This Holiday Season

Long lines can suck the joy out of holiday shopping, but time spent waiting doesn't have to be wasted. Make the most of your holiday haul with these tips for boosting productivity while you wait.

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Plan your holiday menu

Knowing the headcount for holiday dinner can determine whether you pick up a small roast or shell out for that 20-pound Butterball and whether you need to stock up on more wheat rolls or flaky croissants. Kill idle time spent waiting in line by texting RSVP requests to determine how many plates you’ll have to plan for.

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Budget for presents

Hopefully you’ve done some pre-planning since you’re already at the store, after all, but time spent in line can also be an opportune moment to go over your funds. Hey, even Santa checks his list twice! Whether you just remembered a last-minute must-have for someone on your list or caught some unexpected holiday sales that have left your total in the green—score!—spending time going over how much you’ve spent and how much you have left to burn can be a positive. Check out these 5 shopping tips for a stress-free holiday season.

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Pay online bills

The last thing you may want to do during the holiday season is pay more bills, but if you’re planning to deck the halls and have the kiddos wake to a lit Christmas tree, it’s imperative you pay your electric bill. Instead of hoping you have enough left over to skimp by after shopping’s done, take some time in line to pay bills that are about to come due. You’ll rest easier knowing the essential are taken care off—so soundly, in fact, that you might not even hear Santa come down the chimney.

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Check emails

With great holiday deals comes tons of not-so-great holiday spam. With the season of giving lining up with the season of consumer-driven sales, don’t be surprised to find your inbox flooded with buy one get one free deals and 20 percent off coupons. Time spent waiting in line is a great time to purge your inbox from spam and make sure you’re spotting all the discounts you really want.

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Price compare

Don’t take everything labeled a “deal” at face value. Spend some time making sure you’re getting the best bet by comparing prices—both in store and online. To make things easier, be aware of stores that offer a price-match guarantee (such as Walmart, Best Buy, and Lowes); it’s a sure way to save you more money at the register.

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Address thank you notes

You don’t have to wait till January rolls around to craft your thank you notes. While you might not know what you’re receiving yet, you can address your thank you notes. Having your thank you cards set and ready to go means you’ll be able to kick back and relax once presents are opened and gift giving is done.

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People watching is great, but it’s not the pinnacle of productivity. Instead of being nosy—and following other people’s conversations—get your nose in a book. Time spent in line is a great time to catch up on magazine, book, or e-book must-reads. Browsing news sites could also help your stay in the know and add to holiday dinner conversation. Here are 11 simple habits that relieve holiday stress and anxiety.

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Pick up the phone

When’s the last time you called your mother? All jokes aside, there’s nothing quite like hearing the voice of your loved ones during the holiday season, especially if they’re far away. Even if you’re not much of a phone person, ringing that special someone during the holidays can bring the warm fuzzies. Go ahead, and put that smart phone to good use. Just be sure to keep your volume to a level that doesn’t disturb other shoppers.

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Schedule appointments

Spend some of your line time thinking about life outside of the holidays. Once the festivities have worn down, life will get back to normal. Plan for the reality check by booking appointments ahead of time, whether that be upcoming doctors’ visits, teeth cleanings, or oil changes.