Christmas Shopping Tips: Budgeting, Listing & Safety

Christmas shopping

Many of the duties that come with the holiday season, such as Christmas shopping, can add stress to people's lives. Organizing and planning ahead are key to making the whole process run smoothly and stress-free.

Christmas Shopping Organization Tips

Take a little time to get organized before heading out to do any type of shopping.

Set a Budget

Before starting any type of Christmas shopping, take some time to determine a holiday budget. Take a careful look over your finances to determine how much you can spend without taking money away from necessary bills like housing, food and medical expenses. Make sure that you have allowed some room in the budget for all aspect of holiday shopping including:

  • Gifts
  • Wrapping paper, bows, and cards
  • Shipping costs for any gifts going out of town
  • Food

Put this amount of money away in a special account, in an envelope or load it onto a pre-paid credit card. Having the money set aside will assure you that you will stay within your budget.

Make a List

Christmas List

Make a list of all the people you need to buy for. No matter how many people are on your list, from only the closest family members to a list that includes neighbors and co-workers, getting and staying organized is the key to reducing Christmas shopping stress.

Create a list or spreadsheet with the name of everyone that you intend to buy gifts for this season. Next to each person's name add some additional details that will help you when you actually start shopping. Here are some things that should be added to the list:

  • Specific gift ideas, such as a certain doll or a specific colored sweater or tie
  • General gift ideas, such as a toy or an article of clothing
  • Clothing and shoe sizes
  • List of favorite colors, food items, or favorite stores in case you decide to buy a gift card

In addition, add a reminder to buy some extra generic gifts that can be given to someone who unexpectedly gives you a gift or that can be given to someone you might have forgotten to add to your initial list. Consider buying one or two items that are appropriate for men, women, and children such as:

  • Gift card to a coffee stand or popular restaurant
  • Christmas songs CD
  • Money holder card
  • Ornament
  • Favorite food snack, such as a box of candy or hot chocolate mix

Keep these items on hand in case you need them. You might even want to wrap them and tuck them away in a gift closet to eliminate any last minute scramble. Don't forget to put a sticky-note on the gift or gifts describing what is inside.

Avoid Potential Shopping Delays

Remember to factor potential shipping delays into your Christmas shopping plans. Shopping early, before the peak shopping days, will help to eliminate the stress of having to find parking, finding items out of stock, and having to deal with big and sometimes grumpy crowds.

Map Your Shopping Trip

Before heading out, be sure to make a strategic plan as to which stores you want to visit. Gather store flyers together and circle the items you want to purchase. Investing time to look through flyers to compare prices will help save a lot of leg work. It will also save money. Some stores will price match and honor the price of an advertised item from a competing store. This might keep you from having to go from one store to the next. Put flyers, your list and any coupons you might have together in a small zippered folder that will fit into a purse or be easy to carry.

Best Places to Christmas Shop

There are a variety of different places that someone can complete their Christmas shopping list. Each place has its advantages and disadvantages.

Large Malls

shopping mall at Christmas

Large shopping malls allow people to cover every gift on their list in one location. There are many different shops, with some that specialize in clothing for all members of the family, and others that sell electronics, toys, accessories, books, and other items. Shoppers can also find greeting cards, wrapping paper, and even treats for Christmas dinner in these locations. Most stores there offer great, flexible return policies, the latest styles and trendiest items.

On the downside, these malls are often very crowded around the holidays. Parking can also be an issue as many shoppers flock there to finish their shopping. If you wait until the last minute, the hottest gifts may be sold out.

Outlet Malls

Outlet malls are a great place to pick up some Christmas gifts. They are filled with big brand-name stores who offer their products and merchandise at discounted prices. Shopping at these types of centers can help stretch a holiday budget.

However, there are some things to consider though before doing all your shopping there. Some outlet stores do not allow returns or have very strict return policies. If a recipient wants to return an item, they might find it more difficult than if you purchased the item at another store. Also, outlet malls can be few and far between. If someone needs to return something, she may have a drive ahead of her before she will be able to do so.

Standalone Stores

Big box, stand alone stores can be a good choice for holiday shopping because they have a wide selection of items in a variety of departments. Many of these big box stores are considered discount retailers. Shoppers might not only be able to get their shopping list completed there, but they might also be able to get other errands completed such as having their oil changed, eyeglasses fixed or their weekly grocery shopping done, depending on the store they choose. Returns at these retailers are usually a breeze, too.

While these types stores have many departments, they have a limited selection of items in each section. If you have your mind set on buying a designer item such as a particular name brand purse or shoe, you may not be able to find it at these stores.

Online Shopping

If you want to save time and avoid fighting the crowd at your local mall, shop online for all of your Christmas gifts. As with traditional shopping, you should plan ahead and be organized when doing online shopping as well. If you're not willing to pay extra for rush shipping, try to have all of your orders placed shortly after Thanksgiving or even earlier in the year. If you wait too long to order a popular toy, you might be dealing with a very disappointed child on Christmas morning. Here are some more ideas about shopping online.

couple online shopping

Look for Discounts

Many popular online shopping sites offer codes that provide free shipping, a percentage off your total purchase, or other special discounts and incentives. You can gain access to these codes in two different ways:

  • Sign up to become a preferred customer at your favorite store and receive the codes in promotional emails.
  • Use a website, such as or, to manually search for coupon codes at your favorite store.

Popular Sites for Buying Christmas Gifts

If you're new the world of online Christmas shopping, check out the following websites to find gifts for people of all ages:

  • has books, CDs, DVDs, computer software, clothing, home décor, toys, books and other gift items.
  • Red Envelope offers a wide selection of personalized items and unique gifts for almost any person on the shopping list.
  • lets you buy jewelry, electronics, home décor, apparel, and other gift items at affordable prices.

Keep Your Personal Information Safe

While online Christmas shopping is safer than ever before, it's still a good idea to guard your personal information. Remember the following tips as you're buying holiday gifts:

  • Order from established online companies whenever possible.
  • Don't use a password that's easy to guess when you're accessing an online shopping website. Avoid using your birthday, pet's name, or your telephone number; choose something that's a bit more creative.
  • Always double check your order to make sure you've entered your account number, address, and other information correctly.
  • Think twice before using your debit card for online purchases. When you pay with a credit card, your transaction will be protected by the Fair Credit Billing Act.
  • Look over your monthly credit card statements carefully and report any suspicious activity immediately. If your credit card is used without your authorization, you can be held responsible for up to $50 per account. However, if you report the loss before your card is used, you aren't liable for any unauthorized charges.
  • Print out a copy of your order and confirmation number for your records.

Shop Smart This Holiday Season

Whether you venture out to a brick and mortar store or do your shopping from the comfort of home, following these tips is a great way to stay organized. Have a plan and you're sure to finish your list with fewer problems and less stress this season.

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Christmas Shopping Tips: Budgeting, Listing & Safety