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5 Ways to Take the Stress Out of Christmas Shopping This Year

I love to share advice and tips gleaned from my own experiences.

Simplify your Christmas-shopping process with these five tips.

Simplify your Christmas-shopping process with these five tips.

Each year, the task of Christmas shopping can be either difficult or easy to accomplish. Sometimes many people are not in a position to start their Christmas shopping as early as they would normally like due to work or family commitments.

One of the things that can differ each year for individuals is the way that we do our Christmas shopping. While a lot of people prefer to order their Christmas gifts online or take advantage of stores offering services like click-and-collect, many of us still like to stay local and support businesses in our own community.

It’s also probably better to start your Christmas shopping as early as possible because that way you avoid being in long queues or waiting for deliveries that might take longer than normal, especially in the month of December.

Here are five things you can do in the months leading up to Christmas to help take the stress out of the Christmas-shopping process.

5 Tips to Simplify Your Holiday Shopping Process

  1. Find out what people want for Christmas
  2. Make a list as soon as you get their suggestions
  3. Start as early as possible
  4. Study the offerings in each store
  5. Plan your route

1. Find Out What People Want for Christmas

If your family doesn't do Kris Kringle, then you probably have a few people to buy gifts for. But if you are one of those people who hates having to guess what other people want for Christmas, then you probably are better off asking people to send you a list of the gifts that they want for Christmas.

Asking people want they want this year for Christmas can actually take a lot of the stress out of the Christmas shopping experience. While some people might hate this approach to buying presents, for some of us, it’s the best option available especially if you are on a budget. However, if you don't like that approach, then subtly mention in a text or an email a request asking them to send you a list of Christmas present suggestions.

Another way to approach this is to use the four-gift rule method, which is a trend that has cropped up on social media in recent years as a way to reduce the number of gifts given out to people. You focus on quality, not quantity.

Ask people what they want in the months leading up to Christmas. The four areas you want them to give you suggestions for are:

  1. Something They Need
  2. Something They Want
  3. Something to Read
  4. Something to Wear

The aim of this approach is that you'll only buy one or two gifts under each heading. That way, the recipient will still be getting a surprise, but the gifts that they receive will be ones that they will use and enjoy.

1. Something they want2. Something they need3. Something to wear4. Something to read

Alcohol or WIne

Google Nest

Shoes or Slippers

Subscription to magazine

Technology Gift—Laptop, Tablet, Smart Watch

DIY tools

Scarf, Hat, or Gloves

Subscription to online newspaper

Tickets to Sporting Events or Music Concert

Cell Phone

Fleece or Jumper


Subscription to online Streaming Provider

Health or Beauty item

Sweatshirt or T-shirt


Use Pinterest, Excel, or a notebook to record Christmas gift ideas.

Use Pinterest, Excel, or a notebook to record Christmas gift ideas.

2. Make a List

There are some things you can do to make your Christmas shopping a little less stressful than normal. One of those things you need to do is to start making a life of Christmas gift ideas in early October. It might seem very early to do this but in the weeks leading up to Cyber Monday and Black Friday, this is a great way to keep an eye out for any bargains.

Set Up a Pinterest Board

Set up a secret board in your Pinterest account. Then set up sub-boards for each person you have to buy Christmas gifts for on the board. Then every time you see an item on a website that you think someone would like or you find one of the items from their four-gift list, then you post the website link from the store's website on this Pinterest board. Then you can buy the item online at a later date or when you get time to drive into your town or the city.

Similarly, when you are out doing your grocery shopping, if you see something in one of the store windows that they want or that you think would be a good gift idea, take a picture of the item and upload it onto your Pinterest account either using the app or the website. Remember to post the name of the store where you saw the item as well as the floor and section of the store that it was in if you went inside the store in the description section when you upload the photo. This will make it easier to find it later on if you aren’t going to buy it at that time.

Using Excel to Plan Your Christmas Gift List

If you know how to use Excel or Google's Excel doc, then you can create a spreadsheet to help you organize your Christmas shopping list.

  • List out the people you need to buy gifts for.
  • Then list the items they would like.
  • Next list out the store's name and address or their website where you can buy the gift on.
  • Then list the price of the item and if a few stores are selling the same item then list each store's prices.
  • Recording all this information now makes it easier to buy the gift when you have the cash to do so.
  • Also if you know which stores have the product, then you can watch the product online and see if the price gets reduced.
Make a Christmas-shopping list using Excel.

Make a Christmas-shopping list using Excel.

Use a Notebook

If you don’t like using Pinterest or Excel, then just use a notebook or a diary to record your suggestions in. But you need to be careful with this and make sure that you keep it hidden in your car or handbag so that people cannot see it.

You can record your gift idea suggestions the exact same way as you would if you were using Excel or Pinterest. So you write the name of the person you have to buy gifts for on the top of the page, then you would write down the items you need to buy, the website selling it, or the name of the stores selling it along with their location.

3. Start as Early as Possible

It might seem crazy to think about starting your Christmas shopping around October. However the sooner that you start your Christmas shopping, then the quicker you will be finished. It also has the added benefit of allowing you to get your shopping done before the crowds start accumulating in shops, especially in the month of December.

Sometimes people might accidentally drop hints about what types of gifts that they might like in a conversation with you. If someone mentions to you in passing that they saw an item that they liked in a store or online, then take note of the item that they mentioned and check out the store later to see if it is still there. Then you can either purchase it now or save the website link or store address and buy it another time. But don't forget to put a photo or a link into your Pinterest board, Excel spreadsheet, or notebook.

If you have a Facebook or Instagram account then start following these stores that have a presence on these platforms. They will often put up posts in advance notifying their followers about when Christmas stock will come in or of upcoming sales or when Christmas gifts will be coming into the store.

4. Study the Shops

If you decide to leave your Christmas shopping until the month of December, then before you visit any shops to do your shopping you might want to phone them or check their website to see if they still have the items that you want in their store.

If they offer a click-and-collect service, then try to get the item delivered to the store on the day that you plan to do most of your Christmas shopping in town. This means that you can avoid multiple trips into town just to buy one item.

The whole idea of allocating one day to do the majority of your Christmas shopping means that you can get the majority of your shopping done in one trip and you can reduce the amount of time you have to spend walking around town looking for your gifts.

If any of the stores you visit offers free delivery when you spend a certain amount online then try to get as many gifts as you can from their website if they are selling what you want at the right price. This will help you save on shipping when you get to the checkout.

5. Plan Your Route

When the time comes to start your Christmas shopping, your Excel list or notebook will be very useful here. The list below can help to make your shopping experience be as efficient as possible.

  1. Look at the locations of the stores that you need to purchase your gifts from.
  2. Next, write out the addresses of all the stores that you need to visit and try to put them in order of location so you can minimize the amount of time you have to be in each location.
  3. Try to walk from the car park instead of driving to each store looking for parking especially if they are all in the same general location.
  4. If the stores are further apart and require you to drive to them, then try to find a car parking space that is close to the area where the stores are.
  5. Once you have this list organized, check the opening and closing times of each store and then visit the ones that close first.
  6. Start early in the morning to avoid queues and crowds.

Happy Shopping!

Christmas shopping can be a very time-consuming task and it can also be very frustrating if it takes a lot of your time and energy to complete.

While some people leave their Christmas shopping until the last minute, it's always better to try and get it done as early as possible to avoid the stress of not being able to find the gifts that you what.

Most of all you want to avoid being in crowded areas and long queues. You want to get in and out of the stores as quickly as you can.

Having a list and knowing exactly where every store is can make things more efficient when you start your Christmas shopping.

If you cannot get into town or you decide to use online shopping instead, then it is better to try to shop locally so you can support home-grown businesses. Online shopping is a very fast and efficient way to get stuff delivered but sometimes shipping may take longer than normal especially if it is a busy time of the year.

If you're worried about shipping times, then you need to buy your items in advance or get them delivered straight to the recipients' houses.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2020 Sp Greaney


Sp Greaney (author) from Ireland on October 27, 2020:

@ Mary Norton, me too. It can be good if you are trying to keep to a budget. Many people don't have a lot of surplus cash these days.

@Abby Slutsky, yes, that's the one think that's annoying about shopping in towns and cities during busy periods. More people will probably do it online this year.

@Pretti, yes. It's all about prioritising your time as best as you can.

@Lakshmi, yes, a lot of people will go online this year. But hopefully their local businesses will have a presence on there. I hope people don't rely on Amazon for everything. We need to support local to keep our small to medium size businesses open.

@Danny, yes, and it is also a great way to look back on past gifts as well as future gift ideas. I have one for birthdays as well and I put suggestion in throughout the year.

Danny from India on October 27, 2020:

This is a nice piece of information on Christmas shopping. I liked the excel worksheet method which lets you know where you are going northwards.

Lakshmi from Chennai on October 26, 2020:

Hi Sp Greaney, Well planned but online shopping is better than going out in this pandemic situation.

Preeti from India on October 26, 2020:

Planning the route is quite interesting.

Abby Slutsky from America on October 26, 2020:

You have some excellent ideas. I will probably be an onliner this year, but at least I won't have to spend a lot of time looking for parking.

Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on October 26, 2020:

I really like the four gift rule ideas. It's clear and very useful. I like to buy what I like myself and I see which of these would be great for those I need a gift for. My gift drawer is getting full, ready for Christmas.

Sp Greaney (author) from Ireland on October 26, 2020:

@Maren Elizabeth Morgan, thank you. It's a great way to start early and gets bargains as soon as you can.

@Virginia Allain, yes, I think so too. The day of people having surplus cash at Christmas will be over for many families. But a one gift rule should be the new norm going forward if they are able to afford it. A lot of our local stores unfortunately don't have websites so you have to actually go to them. The best thing about WFH is not having to do gift exchanges at work so that's one less worry and expense for employees.

Maren Elizabeth Morgan from Pennsylvania on October 25, 2020:

Love your gift rule chart.

Virginia Allain from Central Florida on October 25, 2020:

I think a lot of people are going to be cutting back on gift-giving this Christmas season. If you are out of work, you don't have the money to spend. If you are being careful about Covid, you'll stay out of the stores. If you are working at home, you don't need to exchange office gifts.