When the weather starts turning colder and Starbucks rolls out their Pumpkin spice lattes and other festive creations it can only mean one thing. The holiday season is upon us. This time of year can bring a lot of joy and celebration: reuniting with friends and distant family members, partaking in holiday traditions, and the excuse to stuff yourself on all of the delicious food and holiday treats.

    The holidays can also be a stressful time filled with too many trips to the mall or panicked last minute browsing on your favorite retail website trying to find the perfect gifts for your loved ones. Not to mention the hangover in January when the credit card bill comes due, and the cheer of the season has melted away.

    A winning strategy is to plan ahead. Make a list of those you plan to buy for, and include a budget for their gifts. Set a limit on the number and cost of the gifts you plan to buy. This will help you stay within your overall budget and allow you to purchase appropriate gifts for the important people in your life.

    Shopping Strategy

    • Shop early and avoid the “Christmas Eve rush”. Everyone has seen those crazy videos of holiday shoppers mobbing a store at 5am on Black Friday. There’s no need to be quite that early, but there’s nothing quite like the feeling of having your Christmas shopping done well before the week of Christmas. You can relax on the couch with a glass of eggnog and carols on in the background while everyone else is searching for a parking spot at the mall.
    So many people look forward to black friday, that it now shows up as a holiday on my phone’s calendar!
    • Whenever possible, pay by cash or check for your gifts. This will help you to limit any overspending you may be tempted to do and reduce the uggh feeling you get when opening your credit card bills in January.
    • Plan out beforehand as much as possible the gifts you plan to purchase before heading out to do your shopping, or sit down at the computer to do your shopping. This will help you avoid the trap of making an impulse purchase while at the store or site and blowing your budget. 
    • Consider exchanging names among a group of family or friends with a set dollar limit and purchasing a gift for one person.
    • Look to purchase “stocking stuffers” at a discount store all in one trip. This will help you avoid impulse buys.
    • Handmade gifts can be the most special. Use your creativity and talent to give the gift of yourself, it’s often a personal touch that is greatly appreciated.
    • Rather than exchange gifts, consider starting a new holiday tradition with a group outing or event. Often, it’s the experiences together that we look back upon fondly and remember much more than the gifts we’ve received.
    • Minimize the return headache, by keeping all of your receipts in one place and including gift receipts as much as possible.

    Taking an organized approach to holiday shopping can make the experience enjoyable for many reasons. First, you will be getting the most value for your dollar. Second, you will now have the time to really relax and enjoy the holidays, knowing your preparations are complete.