When I think about holiday shopping, I always have flashes of fighting the crowds and compromising on gifts three days before the holiday season starts.

I have started to do one single thing that has forever changed the way I give gifts during the holiday season.


I write a list.

I know, I know, a therapist writing a list, how inside the box can that be?  But, it works and I will tell you why.

Writing a list is important to me for two reasons.

  1. I was not doing a good job of financially planning my holidays. Come January, I was looking at my credit card bill which was twice what I remembered it should be.  This really takes the wind out of the sails of gift-giving for me.  I have found that if I know how much I am spending, and it is within my financial limits, I can really enjoy giving people their gifts!  Guilt-free gift-giving, as I like to call it.
  2. I would over-buy for one person and not another.  This again added to the guilty gift giving.  I would have four presents for my Dad because he is a challenge to shop for because I bought EVERY. SINGLE. THING that I passed and thought he would like. Then I would have one gift for my sister which is usually something she told me she wanted.  By keeping a list of who I have bought what and how much it cost, there are no January surprises.

A few questions for you to consider in adopting this process:

When do you like to shop?

I don’t want to take all of the fun out of holiday shopping!  Think about what gives you that holiday experience. Some like to get it all done before Thanksgiving, some like to shop off and on throughout the month of December, some like to do it all in one shipment online, and some like to shop all on one day.  That’s me, I like to do all of my shopping in one or two days.  For me, it feels fun and holiday-ish when I do it that way.  Sometimes I go mid-November and sometimes I go mid-December.  So think about what is going to satisfy your holiday shopping need?

What kind of gift giving is your style?

Some people think of gifts in numbers, some think in price, some think in quantity.  So, figure out which you prefer to give and use that to budget.  For example, if you like giving multiple gifts, pick your amount you would like to spend on that person, say $35, then buy one small ($5), one medium ($10) and one larger gift ($15).


What kind of presents do you want to buy?

Do you want presents to be something they need? Something they want but wouldn’t splurge on for themselves? When I shop, I try to buy presents that are a real treat.  If I am buying people “treat gifts,” I might buy them their favorite lotion, some fancy chocolates, or a gift card to a store they consider a treat to themselves.  For me, this makes gift giving more fun.

What should my list include?

I like to include four items.

  1. The person’s name
  2. What I would like to buy that person (sometimes it’s general like “scarf” and sometimes it’s specific like “Dark Chocolate Almonds Clusters”)
  3. The anticipated amount I can spend
  4. The actual amount I spent

I do this for every single person I plan to purchase a gift for.  Family, friends, coworkers, neighbors, whoever. This way if I see the total is a little less or more than anticipated, I can account for that as I pay for the gifts.

Get out your phone, piece of paper, notecard… whatever works for you and spend 3-5 minutes jotting down names of people you anticipate wanting to purchase gifts for and pick out the time you would like to go shopping.

Excited Shopping Woman

This will take some pressure out of the holiday season for you to be more present and focused on your loved ones who truly make the season as special as it is!

Do you have ideas on budgeting and gift giving? Leave a comment below to share your ideas too!