Holiday Shopping Ideas – Tips on How to Shop Ahead, Organize & Stay Under Budget

Holiday Shopping Tips

Holiday Shopping Ideas

Though it’s only September, it’s beginning to look a lot like the holidays in stores and at my home.  I shop throughout the year for holiday gifts, and I’ve developed a system for storage that ensures that I know who will be receiving what at just a glance.

Buying holiday gifts when items go on sale is a frugal option, but only when I don’t overbuy or forget where I “hid” gifts in the house.

Here are some tips to help organize your holiday shopping:

  • To avoid overbuying, list family members and friends.  I also make a list of teachers, coaches, and the like.   I may not know all of their names early in the year, but I can guesstimate the number of teachers my kids will have.  The final category is what I call “kids and hostess,” because I like to have a few extra gifts for children and a number of small “hostess” gifts ready to go for unexpected guests,  holiday get-togethers or even a workplace secret Santa exchange.
  • When you return home with the first gifts of the year, set up a storage system based on the same list of recipients:
  • Family members and friends, who are likely to receive larger or multiple gifts from you, each get a labeled basket.  Gifts for each of them go into those baskets or underneath, in the case of larger items.
  • Teacher and coach gifts can be stored in see-thru plastic bags (which I reuse from year to year). Even before you know the teachers’ or coaches’ names, you can label them “Soccer coach 1” or “Fifth grade teacher.”
  • For the final category, “extra” kid gifts and hostess items, you can use a labeled laundry basket or sturdy box.
  • Throughout the year, place items large and small into these baskets and bags.  When the holidays approach, glance at each basket and study each bag.  For me, I note whether the items have a “theme,” and look to see what final touches each gift needs.

For example, one of my nephews will receive Williams-Sonoma Star Wars cookie cutters and a matching spatula, along with superhero sprinkles and icing (from the Target summer clearance).   For him, a colorful kitchen glove might make the gifts a perfect set.   Another nephew likes board games, so he’ll receive Scrabble and Jenga (Target sale items). A few of his favorite snacks will make the gift complete.

  • When the gifts are complete, wrapping is easy too. Pull one basket or bag at a time to wrap and label.
  • When the holidays are over, I donate any leftover kid or hostess gifts and start fresh in the new year with empty baskets and a fresh gift list.

Happy holiday shopping!

Marcia Worth Baker, NJ – LRWC Contributor
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  • Tracy

    These are great ideas. I too shop throughout the year, but don’t have such an organized system.

    • Marcia Worth

      Thank you, Tracy!

  • Jenna

    This is a good idea and very timely. I just bought some of the board games at Target and I was thinking that I would wrap them and then store them, but this way is easier for me.

    • Marcia Worth

      Thanks, Jenna. I hope it helps!

  • Anna

    I bought my first Xmas gift this morning! I will give this system a try.

    • Marcia Worth

      Good timing! Thanks.

  • Joshua

    This is not a good idea if you end up finding out what you are getting for christmas :(

    • Marcia Worth

      Oh, don’t you worry, Josh! I mixed up the labels very deliberately :)

  • Dee

    I love the basket idea! I don’t have labeled baskets. But with 5 adult kids, I shop for stocking stuffers throughout the year and keep them in a special cabinet with a shelf for each kid. My kids all cook. I find great bargains at Homegoods in the clearance section…. exotic spices, Himalayan salt, etc. I did run out of room one year and things got mixed up. I accidentally gave a bag of coffee meant to go with the French Press travel mug for Son #2 to Son #3 who doesn’t drink coffee.

    Everyone gets a gift card, too. I try to surprise them with where the card is for. So, it takes some planning and sneakiness when we visit them throughout the year. We recycle the same gift card boxes every year. Two of my sons were going on an overseas trip together, so I got them currency for that country instead that didn’t fit in the gift card boxes. I wrapped the money in something else, but forgot and put empty boxes in the stockings.

    I buy any toy bargains for Toys for Tots. I’ve had a stash of Pillow Pets for a couple of months already.

  • Abby

    Very helpful!

  • Vanessa

    Worth a try. I have a larger family and gift buying is a big job. Thanks

  • Alexis

    This year I am putting my couponing to good use. My husbands family is much larger and they all exchange gifts with each other. There are 8 cousins total to shop for, from ages 14-24. This year I’m doing “beauty/health” baskets for each of them. The girls will all get shampoo/conditioner/razors/shaving cream/body wash/nail polish etc.Whereas the guys are getting razors/shaving cream/mouthwash/deodorant/body spray etc. Most of them are in college so all stuff they need! And so far I’ve spent hardly anything out of pocket (maybe less then $30), getting most of these things practically for free! I’m almost done, and then I can check off 8 people from my shopping list:-)

  • Maura

    When I find awesome deals on possible gift items I pick them up whether they are for someone right now or not. I have a pile of ‘unclaimed’ gifts that I will go through if I need a last minute birthday gift or extra xmas present and keep them til I need them. Maybe one of the kid gifts is too old for anyone right now, well in two years it might be the perfect gift for someone. (I also put sticky notes with each person’s name on the claimed gifts, and keep a paper list nearby so I know who gets what and who still needs a gift.