So much stress gone by following a similar plan this year! And LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this printable/spreadsheet to track Christmas gifts!

5 Steps to Stress-Free Holiday Gift-Giving (And Printable Spending Plan!)

YES! This year I'm budgeting my holiday spending and not going over a single penny. Christmas is about showing people that you care, not buying things you can't afford. LOVE this spreadsheet spending plan.

I absolutely love Christmas time.  The excitement.  The decorations.  The music.  The message.

But, oh…the gifts.  I’m terrible at giving thoughtful gifts.  Unfortunately, this has meant that I’ve spent many years scrambling at the last minute to finish my Christmas gift purchases.

Having kids compounds this (in my case times three).  I’ve spent this year finally getting rid of the excess toys and clutter and could not be happier with the progress I’ve made.  I’ve curated the toy collections down to the ones that they actually play with and they really don’t need any more toys.  In years past, I’ve made sure that all the kids have equal numbers of toys under the tree and that we spent a fairly equal amount of money on each child, even if that meant buying random things to fill in the deficiencies.  Not this year!  By planning ahead, I’ve been able to think of gifts that are useful, but still fun, and that won’t clutter up my house or be tossed within a couple months.

This year, I’ve been organized with my Christmas shopping and planning.  I feel like the small amount of time I’ve invested in doing so has completely paid off.  By following an organized system, I’ve been able to (mostly) overcome my lame gift-giving tendencies and avoid the stress that comes with finding last-minute gifts.

How have I organized my Christmas gift-giving process to eliminate the last-minute stress?

STEP ONE: Keep an ongoing list all year long

img_2545So, I have to admit that I didn’t start my list in January and probably not even February or March.  But, when I did observe or think of a good gift-giving idea for a family member during the year, I jotted it down.  Unfortunately, I tend to have a pretty terrible memory.  Fortunately, I realize that I have a bad memory and compensate for it by staying organized.  I created a new note on my iPhone to track these gift ideas and it works perfectly for me.  I (nearly) always have my iPhone with me and it doesn’t get lost or forgotten like it would if I were to write the ideas down on paper.

I created a new note on my iPhone to track these gift ideas and it works perfectly for me.  I (nearly) always have my iPhone with me and it won’t get lost or forgotten like it would if I were to write the ideas down on paper.  I suggest that you start a new note right after Christmas and list all the names of the people you buy gifts for and it will also be helpful for birthdays as well!

STEP TWO: Start a Christmas fund early

I like to use my credit card rewards for Christmas gifts.  It gives me an extra little boost and some extra flexibility if I go over my allotted Christmas budget.  In addition, I start setting aside money for Christmas in the last few months of the year when I start the actual shopping.

I’ve seen many people suggest starting in January with automatic monthly savings deposits, but we don’t spend so much on Christmas that I feel the need to do so.  I think it’s a great idea if you have expensive gifts to plan for or otherwise have the need to budget well ahead to ensure that you don’t end up going into debt for Christmas gifts.

STEP THREE: Make a spending plan 

For me, budgeting my money actually creates freedom in my life.  If I set aside a chunk of money for something, I feel like I can spend it guilt-free.  And who doesn’t love guilt-free spending?  If you want to avoid the post-holiday financial stress, it’s imperative that you create a spending plan for Christmas gifts and stick to it.

The first thing I do before I start my holiday shopping is I set an overall budget for Christmas gifts and then allocate it based on the people that I’m purchasing gifts for.  So, for example, assume I have $500 budgeted for Christmas gifts.  I may allocate $100 for my husband, $75 for each of my 3 kids, $50 for my parents, $50 for my in-laws, $50 for teacher gifts and $25 for various other small gifts that I purchase.

I like to use spreadsheets, so I’ve set this spending plan up in Excel, but I am also offering a printable version as well.  Download the Christmas Spending Plan for Excel| Google Drive | PDF

Love this free Christmas spending plan/budget. There's a spreadsheet version as well as a PDF version, which is AWESOME!STEP FOUR: Finalize gift ideas and check prices

After I’ve set the budget, I start finalizing the specific gifts that I plan to purchase for each person.  The beginning of November is a great time to start this (before the holiday craziness begins).  I start researching the prices at this point in time, however, if there are electronics or things that I think may be discounted for Black Friday/Cyber Monday deals, I wait to purchase until then to see if I can get a significantly lower price (big disappointment this year-I didn’t purchase a single thing on Black Friday!).

If some of the gifts I want to purchase push my budget over a little, I tend to be very flexible with my gift budget and am able to check my overall money budget to make sure that I can allocate some more money to gifts.  The key is to not set such a tight budget that you feel like it’s unreasonable and end up abandoning your entire plan.  It’s better to be a little over than a spending spree size amount over.

STEP FIVE: Purchase gifts

After I know exactly what I plan to buy for the people on my list, I start purchasing the gifts.  If I see a sale on one of the things on the list, I buy at that time and don’t worry if it might be cheaper later.  I’ve learned from experience that waiting to buy things until I absolutely know I’m getting the cheapest price is a surefire way to be doing all my Christmas shopping at the last minute (and also at full price!).  While my husband likes to keep checking after buying things to make sure he got a good deal, I prefer to do the opposite (basically, never check again-ha!).

By the beginning of December, I had a really good start to my Christmas shopping and by mid-December, I’m basically done.  This allows for time to enjoy other holiday festivities and avoid the shopping crowds.  By planning ahead, I can order the vast majority (and I do mean vast) of my Christmas gifts on the internet and have plenty of time for shipping, even when things become delayed or sold out.

Right about now, I’m sitting back and relaxing.  I won’t be driving out in a snow storm to get those last minute gifts or worrying that I spent too much.  I’m going to make gingerbread houses and drink hot chocolate instead.

Do you have a process for organizing your Christmas gift giving?  I’d love to hear about it!


6 Responses

  1. I love it! We started to do something similar a few years ago. Every year we list out who will we give gifts to and how much we will spend. It’s always a good idea to keep tabs on how much you are spending on others, and this makes it really easy.

  2. My wife and I start adding gifts to our Amazon wish list throughout the year to help out our parents for gift giving ideas. Likewise they share their gift ideas so that we all know what is piquing each other’s interest. Having some semblance of an idea definitely makes the process go that much smoother. I definitely like the idea of writing down gift ideas for others throughout the year though. Thanks for sharing!!!

  3. It’s great that you’ve gotten into the habit of making note of your gift ideas throughout the year. That might make it easier to spend less too. You can remember little thoughtful items that someone might really want, as opposed to some expensive gift that has less meaning.

    That’s a sharp looking Christmas Spending Plan. I like the added touch with the red and green colors.



I’m Kathryn Hanna-wife, mother of 3 and a Certified Public Accountant. I love to budget (really, I do!) , build spreadsheets and spend money on travel, sewing supplies and good chocolate.


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