When you begin noticing adults getting aggressive behind the shopping cart or in line at a store, singers you didn’t think were still living releasing yet another Christmas album, and people programming their cells to play “Jingle Bells,” you know the biggest shopping season of the year is on its way. Many students wait until they get home to frantically search for the perfect holiday gifts for loved ones. But there is a far more convenient alternative to sacrificing invaluable vacation time: New Haven.

Boasting several popular clothing stores, jewelry shops, boutiques, bookstores and sporting goods stores, the Elm City is an ideal place for college students to go holiday shopping. Besides, getting outside for some fresh, crisp winter air will keep your brain from going on auto-pilot during reading period and exam time.

Gifts that say, “Hi, I know someone who goes to Yale”

Freshmen, this holiday season is the easiest time you will have present-shopping — ever. Milk the Yale Bookstore (and your bursar account) for all it’s worth when trying to find gifts for your family and friends back home. The Yale Barnes and Nobles store sells books on practically any subject you could ever imagine and also carries posters, picture frames, Clinique makeup, and an array of other products. But you will pay a hefty price for convenience.

For parents and other relatives, a picture frame with a picture of the child they are so proud of is an excellent gift. Besides, wouldn’t a more recent picture be a better choice for the living room than one of you in that awkward period? When shopping at the Bookstore, be advised: Do not be cheap. Don’t bursar a gift for Dad if he is footing the bills for your Yale account.

Gift certificates

Unless you are absolutely sure someone will use the present you give them — especially if you are stretching your piggy bank — a gift certificate is always a safe way to go. While some may argue that they are impersonal, gift certificates give friends or family the chance to find something they will truly enjoy. Keep in mind, though, that you should not go the gift certificate route for someone from home unless it is for a chain store.

You do not want to insult a hyper-sensitive friend or relative, especially a girl, by giving him or her an item of clothing that is — gasp — a size too big. By giving a gift certificate to the Gap, J.Crew, or Urban Outfitters, you avoid the hassle.

Aside from the commonly-thought-of gift certificates for clothing and CDs, there are many other kinds you can give to friends that will give them something fun to actually do. For example, has your best friend been gnawing at her nails recently as she stresses over the term paper from hell? If so, try giving her a gift certificate to a nail salon — she will greatly appreciate your thoughtfulness.

Because Yale is a high-stress environment, the University has its fair share of students out there who barely make ends meet as they fuel their Starbucks-junkie habit. A gift certificate to any coffee shop can free up cash for their secondary expenses, such as food and warm clothing.

And while it is a little cold now to picture someone strolling down the street with an ice cream cone in hand, there are many Ashley’s fanatics who slip out in the night for a something sweet to get them through the rest of their studying.

All of these things you can do with a friend. Remember, your time is the greatest gift of all.

Great buys, spending less

New Haven offers several boutique stores where you can find gifts such as hand-crafted ornaments, tapestries, photo albums and jewelry. Located on Chapel Street, Ten Thousand Villages carries beautifully hand-crafted wooden picture frames and carved wood. At Endleman Jewelers, also on Chapel, one can find earrings starting as low as $4.50 and necklaces. On Broadway, Alexia Crawford also carries a range of jewelry and other accessories.

And remember, hats and scarves are always particularly thoughtful gifts for those who come from warm-weather areas and those who will never adjust to New England winters.