Saving Money: Christmas Shopping Lists and Budgets

I’ve always relied on a Christmas shopping list and spending budget, but in past years I’ve been a little looser with my “spending limits.” Not this year. I’m determined to pay off lots of debt in 2008, which means getting a head start in 2007 by spending less while still enjoying the holiday spirit.

Here’s how I create my list and set my budget:

  1. In early November, make a list of all the people I have to give gifts.
  2. Determine my holiday budget for gifts.
  3. Break that down into specific amounts for each person and note that number next to the person’s name.
  4. Consider joint gifts and pooling resources with a friend or relative. In my family, my mother, sister, and I pool our resources to buy better gifts for my cousins. Even though we each only spend $10-12 on each child, the combined total of $30-36 means they get a gift they really want. This year, two cousins want the same video game, so we’re giving them a joint gift, plus a small gift card for each of them.
  5. Look through catalogs, notice items while in stores, and check online for potential gifts. Think about the person’s interests and personality. When I spend less, it’s important to get a meaningful gift. If I can’t think of anything that would be meaningful, I consider no longer exchanging gifts with that person. I no longer buy gifts for the majority of my friends because it had become an obligation rather than a pleasure. With many, it wasn’t something we discussed, we just simply stopped.
  6. Narrow down the gift choices, but leave a few options within my stated limit. Include sales tax or shipping costs in that budget.
  7. Start shopping early to be sure I get the gifts you want and avoid last minute panic-buying – which nearly always leads to overpaying.
  8. Start shopping online to determine appropriate prices and whether it may be cheaper to buy online, once shipping and tax are included. Note online prices on your list.
  9. For online shopping, I try to buy several gifts from the same site to get a discount or earn free shipping.
  10. Carry my list with me at all times so I can buy the right gift when I see it. This also helps me avoid overspending on an impulse gift.
  11. If I spend less than the stated amount, I count that as savings. I don’t necessarily have to spend more just because the gift I found was on sale or costs less than the amount I feel I should spend. A meaningful gift is meaningful regardless of the price tag. Last night, I discovered my cousin’s gift was marked down 60% for one day. I jumped on the deal, and don’t feel guilty about spending less than planned. She’s still getting exactly what she wants.

As an added bonus, my list and budget method usually means I’m done shopping by mid-December. I have the luxury of taking advantage of free shipping by shopping early and never have to battle the crowds at the mall.

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