Is anyone else perpetually last-minute about gift giving? Before we know it, it’ll be December, and we’ll find ourselves wandering around the mall aimlessly or scouring e-commerce sites. This year I’m determined to be better about planning for holiday gift giving. I’m hoping that by writing this post I’ll both motivate myself to be better about planning ahead and inspire you to do the same!
Prepare your shopping budget. Gift giving can really add up! Take a serious look at your budget and see how much you can feasibly spend without worrying. Prioritizing a set amount for each person you give gifts to will help you brainstorm ideas and prevent you from overspending. (Really trying to get a handle on holiday expenses? Don’t forget about entertaining expenses, travel costs, holiday tipping, white elephant parties, hostess gifts, and outfits for Christmas and New Year’s!) I’ve also created a sample holiday shopping budget spreadsheet for you to copy/download and plug in your own info. (I’ve kept it simple, but feel free to tweak with conditional values or specific filters based on your own needs. Also, for the sake of clarity, all numbers/info in the spreadsheet are mock-ups, not real numbers!)
Get started on DIY projects. I don’t know about you, but I always have good intentions to DIY some gifts…and then I never get around to it. Unless you’re a DIY pro, I’d start planning and buying your materials now so you can get started on DIY projects before Thanksgiving rolls around. You can even factor your DIY project planning into the Christmas expenses spreadsheet to get a full sense of timeframe and budget.
Before making any online purchase… cross-check prices, take a look at Retail Me Not, and sign up for Ebates (referral link) and airline shopping portals offer a similar set-up. For Ebates, you can get a percentage cash back on many online retailers for clicking a link on the Ebates site after you sign up. Ebates sends you a cash back payment based on a quarterly schedule if you’ve earned at least $5.01 the previous quarter.
Are you a frequent traveler? You might be interested in airline shopping portals. It’s free to register and participate, and all you have to do is click through to get miles per dollar spent. With Delta, for example, Sephora.com offers 3 miles/$1, J.Crew.com offers 2 miles/$1, and CrateandBarrel.com offers 2 miles/$1—just for clicking through from the Delta portal. A quick Google search for “[AIRLINE] shopping” shows that Southwest Air, JetBlue, US Airways, and many more offer this same opportunity. So if you’ve booked your reward ticket home for the holidays and eyeing your dwindling frequent flier miles, this can help you add just a little bit back to your account.
Check your credit cards. While I’m never an advocate of credit card debt, sometimes it can be a smart decision to make holiday purchases on credit and pay it off right away. For example, Discover Card members can sign up for 5% cash back on department store and online shopping purchases from October through December—just for using their cards. If you have points or miles tied to your card, that can also be a way to benefit from the holiday season. American Express, Chase, and MasterCard all typically have similar opportunities, so if you’re already a credit card user, this could be a good option.
Send more snail mail. It’s probably unlikely that you have the time, budget, or energy to give gifts to everyone you know, but a simple holiday card can be a nice way to keep in touch. Buying a set of stationery and a book of stamps won’t set you back too much, but it can be a nice way of sharing the holiday spirit.
What are your tips for making holiday gift giving less daunting?