14 Steps to Prepare For Holiday Shopping

Posted by Madison on November 10, 2008

Too early to begin holiday shopping? … OK, maybe, for some of you. But it’s not too early to begin planning for holiday shopping! The more prep work you do, the better result you will have with your money and stress in the next six weeks.

1. Make your list. Hopefully you saved your list from last year as a starting point. If not, make a list of all the people you would like to give a gift to.

2. Make a budget. Determine the total amount you want to spend for everyone this holiday season.

3. Check how much you have. Have you been saving all year? We use an ING account to deposit holiday money all year, that way when December rolls around we are set. If your budget and the amount you have don’t match, either revise your budget or determine how much you need to save each week between now and the end of the year.

4. Resist the temptation. The holidays are the most common time of year to whip out your credit card and tell yourself you will pay it off after the holidays. Don’t do it! Remember how crummy it makes you feel in the New Year?

5. Allocate your budget. Assign your budget to each person on your list. Remember the total can’t exceed your amount in number 3! Subtract or reallocate until you can make it match. This is another reason we are starting early… you haven’t gotten sucked into the spending mentality yet, so you can stop any spending impulses before they begin!

6. Let it sit. Think about your budget and your list for a few days. Every time I do this, I find that I want to adjust the recipients and the amounts I plan to spend.

7. Make the gift list. Brainstorm three items or categories for each person on your list. If you have three, you’ll be more likely to find one of them on sale at some point.

8. Mark the top three. Put a star by the people that you will purchase the most expensive gifts for. These are the gifts that you want to focus your time on finding super deals for; more expensive gifts usually means more opportunity to save!

9. Carry your list. Have it with you at all times. When you are out and about and see an incredible deal, pull out your list. If it matches one of the gifts or categories on your list, buy it! If it doesn’t fit your list… don’t buy it!!!

10. Begin handmade items. Remember when you thought it was silly to start planning now? If any of the gifts are ones that you can make by hand, the last thing you want to do is spend the night before up late finishing them. Make those now and get them out of the way.

11. Group similar items. Can you give the same gift to any of your recipients in a tactful way? For example, can you give an ornament to all the teachers? Anytime you can give a similar gift, it will be cheaper and require less shopping.

12. Take advantage of shipping deals. Now is the time to try a free month of Amazon Prime if you haven’t yet. That way, if you find a spectacular deal you won’t have to worry about filler items and you can still get fast shipping when you order by the Christmas Shipping Deadlines.

13. Shop online successfully. If you’re following the Friday series, you’re one step ahead of the game by signing up for cash back programs. In addition, last year I gave Ten Tips for Holiday Shopping Online, which is a great reminder this time of year.

14. Get creative. I like to make contributions for college savings accounts. If you plan to open an account for a niece, nephew, or other special person in your life, why not sign up now and get the $25 bonus. I’m planning to open another account for our niece so my $25 spent will look like a $50 gift!

Stay tuned for more detailed tips and my favorite shopping extravaganza, Black Friday!

What are you doing to prepare for holiday shopping?

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Comments to 14 Steps to Prepare For Holiday Shopping

  1. We put #3 into place this year, and for the first time in a long time, I’m not dreading Christmas shopping! The budget is in place, the money is there, and we’ll even finish up a little early this year. I definitely agree that saving a little all year long is the way to go.

    Frugal Dad

  2. This is all excellent advice..next year I really need to plan for Christmas in my budget and not rely on getting my work bonus!

    laura @ no more spending

  3. I definitely agree on using a list. How many things in life go better with a list? The simple answer… most of them!

    Also, planning and budgeting works! You don’t need a Christmas Club (although they can’t hurt), but you just have to plan in your savings account. There is nothing like a cash Christmas.


  4. Great timing for this post! I actually wrote my holiday list out this morning – my only tip to add would be to plan ahead for holiday party gifts. I went to my local wine store and bought a case and got a nice case discount – now I can bring a bottle of wine and don’t have to worry about rushing around and buying something last minute before an event.

    sue bette

  5. What I am doing this year is buying a lot of gifts from L.L. Bean, a retailer I like. I will probably buy most people a gift card.

    The reason is that I have an L.L. Bean Visa and I get a lot of credits when I buy from them. So after the holidays, I will have enough credits to buy some clothes and other items very inexpensively.

    I am sure this same approach could be applied with other credit cards and other retailers. Yes it seems boring to buy gifts from the same place but I do not think the recipients will mind or know that I have bought everyone else pretty much the same thing.

    I just thought of this idea and I hope it is a good one.

    Neil Anuskiewicz

  6. By the way, one more thing, I am sure that virtually every retailer has gift certificates or cards that can be used in the store or online.

    Some like Amazon are only online, of course.

    For those of my gift recipients who do not want to buy clothes online (no opportunity to try things on), L.L. Bean offers other things that might interest them (e.g., a watch).

    Neil Anuskiewicz

  7. While searching for a way to increase my income, I found an ebay dropshipper with closeouts on lots of items. I can order Christmas gifts for 50-70% off of retail. It might save my budget this year, just be careful of shipping and dropship fees. They can eat up the savings.

    I didn’t have room in my budget this year for Christmas savings so I will need to increase my income for awhile. I have found the easiest way to do this is to sell things on eBay. I get rid of clutter and use the money for Christmas shopping.


  8. @ Neil: I love the vests at L.L. Bean! Do they give you credit when you purchase gift cards?

    @ CindyS: Great idea to increase your income to cover your purchases! Lots of people could use that tip.


  9. Also, think of what you can give that doesn’t cost anything at all – time, help, volunteering, etc. Sometimes the best gifts are the ones that come from the heart and not the store!


  10. @ Madison: Yes, the credit card is great. You purchase and get credits. I am not sure the exact formula but it seems every time I order something from L.L. Bean not only do I get free shipping but I get a $10 credit. I am not sure how much I have to spend in general on the card or specifically at L.L. Bean to get the $10 credit but it does not seem to be that much. I know I should know exactly since have the credit card.

    @ David: I am intrigued by your idea but I have relatives and friends all over the place. It would be hard to do. I do have local friends here in Portland, OR, where I live. I send cards to friends, unless they have kids, then I give gifts to the kids only not the adults.

    If you could give specific examples of gift ideas that involve gifts from the heart, I would consider it. It is a good idea.

    Neil Anuskiewicz

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