1. Tipping.

Woe is me. I recently discovered that I have been under-tipping the hotel maid service. In an effort to atone for my tipping sins, I did some reading on the subject, and below is the consensus between articles and guides from Emily Post, a savvy writer from, US News & World Report and CNN.

For a holiday gift guide for your service providers, check out Emily Posts's website.

2. Keep Calm And Read The Fine Print.

One of my favorite clients had the misfortune of having his laptop stolen; fortunately he was able to recoup the cost from American Express since he used their card to make the purchase within the stipulated 90-day timeframe. After breathing a big but ladylike sigh of relief, I wondered what other benefits are offered by my credit cards. Of course there are exclusions, but I found some impressive benefits. Since the holiday shopping and traveling are about to begin, I suggest you Stop Everything You Are Doing Right Now and check out your credit card's website(s). This is what I found on mine:

American Express

Purchase Protection,

the protection from which my client was reimbursed, provides coverage from theft or damage for purchases within 90 days of purchase.

Extended Warranty

automatically adds a year to the warranty period of the purchase.

Return Protection

offers an extended return policy on items the merchant won't take back.

Baggage Insurance Plan

provides benefits for a person's damaged, stolen, or lost baggage.

Car Rental Loss and Damage Insurance Plan

provides coverage for damage to or theft of most rental autos.

Global Assist Hotline

helps you prepare for your trip with customs information and destination guides.

Enhanced Roadside Assistance

offers assistance four times a year if the car is more than 50 miles from primary residence -- including jump starts, flat tire change, lock out, towing up to 10 miles, delivery of up to 2 gallons of fuel.

USAA Worldmastercard

Extended Warranty

adds a year to the warranty period.

Purchase Assurance

covers the purchase of the item if damaged or stolen within 90 days from purchase.

Travel Assistance Services

provides information on travel requirements, medical assistance, and access to a Legal Referral Service.

Master Road Assist Service

on the road while you are traveling in the US, including jump-starts, towing, gas delivery, tire changes for a pre-arranged fee.

Identity Theft Resolution Services

provides access to a number of cost-free Identity Theft Resolution Services.

Master Rental Insurance

pays for covered damages incurred to a rental vehicle on a secondary basis.

Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance

for unrefundable common carrier expenses.

Worldwide Automatic Travel Accident/Baggage Delayed

Insures against accidental loss of life, limb, sight, speech, or hearing, and reimbursement up to $300 for incidentals in the event your bag is delayed.

Price Protection Coverage

when you find a lower price for something you bought within 60 days from purchase.

2. Have You Been Updating Your Holiday Card List?

I was born and raised to handwrite the recipient addresses, but a few years ago, I crossed over to the easy, efficient side and gave myself, heart and soul, to my Microsoft Mail Merge Manager. If you have your address list on Excel, it's a breeze. Here's a spreadsheet template to build on (with some extra fields you won't need on the labels):

My favorite labels are the Avery brand, inkjet or laser. Microsoft has great instructions via their Help menu. Type in Create Mailing Labels by using Mail Merge Mail. This is my cheat sheet:

3. Giving The Gift Of iTunes.

Did you know that via your iTunes account, you can send someone a song? Such a clever and quick way to say "I Thank You" (Sam & Dave/.99) to a friend, "Thanks for the Memories" to a hostess with the most-ess (Sarah Vaughan/.99), "Happy Birthday to the Birthday Girl" (Happy Birthday/.99), "Please Come Home For Christmas" (Eagles/$1.29) to a wayward traveler, or "I'm Sorry" if it will help (Brenda Lee/$1.29).

You can also send TV episodes (SNL Thanksgiving/$2.99 or Peanuts Holiday Classics/$29.99) or one of these days you could send a movie to a housebound friend who is under the weather (When Harry Met Sally/$14.99), in case anyone is ever wondering... -- as well as games and apps.

Go to the iTunes store, find the selction, click the arrow next to the price and choose Gift This. From your phone, you select the Share option at the top of the screen. You provide the email of the recipient and he or she will get an email notice of your kindess with a download link.

4. 16 Stocking Stuffer Ideas I've Seen So Far.

Swimming Swans Trinket Dish at Anthropologie $14

Pairs in Pears game at $9

Love Ring by Sydney Evan at Neiman Marcus $125

Kentucky Bourbon Candle at Crate & Barrel $15

Zing Hair Ties at Anthropologie $15

Leather Key Chain at Crate & Barrel $10

Blow Soccer Game at $7.50

Spirograph Set at $13

Classic Swiss Army Pocket Knife at $14

Socks Left & Right at Urban Outfitters $8

I-Wiper glasses at $9

More Issues Than Vogue Pillow Cover at Society 6 $20

Gold Glass Writer at Crate & Barrel $4

Micro Art Kit at $8

Toy Skate Boarders at $7

Mini Black Umbrella at Brooks Brothers $50