8 Tips to simplify your holiday shopping this year

The jolliest season of the year has finally arrived! But if crowded malls, limited parking spots, and long to-do lists have you feeling like a humbug, you’re not alone. No one wants to spend the holidays on the constant verge of a panic attack. Your time’s better spent with the ones you love, enjoying the activities that come around only once a year.

To help you maximize the joy and minimize the stress, here are 8 tips to help you simplify your holiday shopping this year!

Get organized

Red ornament by a piece of paper and pen on a desk

You know what they say — “if you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” And while it’s a little extreme to say that you’re “failing” the holidays by being disorganized, a little planning will go a long way toward keeping you on the sane side of things. The last thing you want is to have a panic attack and start hyperventilating in the Target bargain aisle on Christmas Eve. (Though we’ve all been there…)

Before you start frantically buying up a storm, here’s what you should do:

  1. Make a list. Either write it down on paper or create a new Note on your phone. Who are you shopping for? What ideas do you have for them already? Keep track of it all in one spot and this will prevent you from going hog wild in the stores with every sale that catches your eye.
  2. Create a budget. Not everyone likes doing this, but it’s generally a good idea if you don’t want to end up blowing your kids’ braces budget on spontaneous spending. This is also a good way to cut yourself off from overbuying and spending money on things you don’t actually need. (Remember: Just because it’s a good deal, it doesn’t mean you have to buy it. Don’t let FOMO break your bank!)
  3. Decide when and where you’ll shop. Do you like the experience of going out into the shopping malls with all the holiday music and decorations? Or do you prefer to shop from the comfort of your own home in your Christmas pjs? Either way is fine, but make a plan for where you’re willing to spend your dollars and cents. (Shopping at a small business might align more with your values than buying up everything at a big online chain.)

Make that list and check it twice!

Shop as early as you can

Wrapped package with a made in Santa's workshop tag

For some people, “early” means anything before Christmas Eve. For others, it’s doing next year’s shopping on December 26th. We’re going to suggest that “early” in this case means getting as much of it done by December 1st so that you can relish in an entire month of yuletide joy without getting bogged down by frantic errands. Of course, if you like the adrenaline rush that comes with waiting until the last minute, then more power to you!

Bottom line: Decide what you want your goal to be and stick with it. Choose a date that works for you and get your shopping done by then no matter what. (Consider it a Christmas present to yourself.)

Have a 1-gift rule

Person showing brown gift box

Maybe it’s because you want the Christmas magic to last as long as possible, or maybe you’re worried that if you don’t buy enough gifts, you’ll ruin your kids’ holiday… but most of us buy too many things to cram under the tree. (Admit it. You’re guilty of this, too.)

You can keep things super simple by creating a 1-gift rule for the family. This could mean that everyone gets just one gift from mom and dad and everyone else, or that the whole family will go in on one special gift for each person. (For example: instead of buying 5 things for $20 each, maybe everyone pools their money to get a nice $100 gift.)  It might mean the unwrapping time is shorter, but the gifts will hopefully last longer!

Or don’t shop at all

Christmas cookies on a tray

We’re not saying you need to Grinch it up and avoid all holiday cheer — just that you don’t necessarily have to spend any money to enjoy the spirit of giving. If money is tight, or if you’re just over the whole shopping thing, there are plenty of other ways you can brighten someone’s season. Offer to be someone’s personal housemaid for the holidays. Help cook all those yummy family meals. Create your own special “_____ of the month club” and deliver monthly goodies over the next year to the recipients. (Maybe you’ll knit them something or make a special flavor of jam. The possibilities are endless!) 

For more ideas, check out this list of gifts that don’t cost a thing.

Give the same gifts to everyone

Four gift boxes under a Christmas tree

At first glance, you might think this sounds like a boring cop-out for your Christmas shopping. But think about it — would you rather buy dozens of individual gifts that you put minimal thought into, or would you rather carefully plan out one amazing present that everyone would be happy with? Obviously, you get better gas mileage out of that last option. 

Here are a few ideas to get your brain going: 

  • Gather your favorite family recipes and create a mini cookbook
  • Spend one day in the kitchen baking your favorite Christmas treats and give everyone on your list a plate of them
  • Create a photo book highlighting your memories over the past year
  • Give everyone one of your favorite things — a favorite book, pair of slippers, blanket, scented candle or something cute for their homes

This may work better for groups of people outside of your immediate family (neighbors, teachers, coworkers, etc.). But depending on the gift, your kids might appreciate getting the same presents, too. (Especially if the present is a family trip to Disneyworld or something that will blow their minds.)

Buy presents in bulk

Several wrapped packages

You probably know this already, but buying in bulk is usually much cheaper than trying to track down individual items. Once you’ve decided on the gift you want to give everyone (see the previous tip), track down a good deal online and buy it all in bulk. (That also means fewer opportunities for your packages to get lost in the mail. Win-win!)

Focus on traditions instead of gifts

Close up of Christmas tree with people in the background

Let’s face it. Most of us adults can usually buy anything we want with a click of a button. And while gift-giving is fun and it can be a thrill to hunt down the perfect item, sometimes the best gifts are the things that people can’t buy. After all, they do say that experiences make better gifts than things.

Instead of buying up a bunch of individual gifts for your neighbors, maybe ask everyone if they’d rather go in on a yearly Christmas brunch or a neighborhood Sub for Santa. You could even host a “Cookies and Cocoa” night once a year and enjoy your friends’ presence instead of buying your friends presents. (See what we did there?) Get creative with this one and you might discover your new favorite holiday tradition!

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What are your holiday shopping tips?



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