How to Make a Shopping List for Christmas Gifts

If you end up spending way too much time Christmas shopping and come home with stocking stuffers that nobody is kicked about, maybe it’s time to rethink the way you go about it.

This technique to make a shopping list has helped me find the perfect gifts for my friends and family and saved me hundreds of dollars every time. Maybe it will help you?

1. Settle down at your desk comfortably with a piece of paper and a pencil.

2. Make three columns.

3. In the first column create two sub- headings – Must buy, Want to buy.

4. Under the first category, write the names of your dearest loved ones whom you absolutely must buy gifts for. Parents, siblings, best friend, spouse, grandparents, aunts and uncles may fall in this category. Include the people you care about the most and whom you will definitely be meeting or sending gifts to.

5. Under Want to buy, include people you like and want to give something to – such as colleagues, professors, business associates, tennis partner, distant cousin, child’s teacher etc.

6. In the second column – against each name write down what you know about them which would help you find gifts for them. For example – Against Mom, you could write – enjoys decorating, likes good coffee, is a Michelle Obama fan etc. Against Uncle Stephen, you could write – needs to get his den organized, enjoys cigars, poker

7. In the third column – translate the items in the second column to actual gifts. For example, gift options for mom could be – a yearly subscription to a leading Home Décor magazine or a couple of bags of the finest coffee beans,  a book about Michelle Obama or a collection of the best interview clippings with the First Lady from leading magazines. For Uncle Stephen, the options could be – hire cleaning help to clean out and organize den or build or buy a storage shelf for his large book collection, personalized poker cards or a new poker table.

8. When you’ve done this for all the people in your list, you will see that for each person you will have two or three gift options to choose from. Now, select the options you like best. For some people, you could combine a couple of gifts. For others, you could choose just one. Some gifts, you can make and personalize – a book with Michelle Obama clippings for Mom, for example. Some gifts, you can order online.

9. Do the same with the second category of people. Remember to include gifts that are ‘free’ – such as your babysitting services, an offer to read to someone or to drive them somewhere, to help somebody out for a day etc.

10. When your list is complete, go back with a pen and circle the gift options you like best. Carry the list with you so that if you don’t find your first choice or if it’s beyond your budget, you can pick options two or three.

11. Once you’re done shopping for your first category or ‘Must Buy’ group, bring back the piece of paper and think about the second category of people. By this time, you ought to know how much you have spent already and how much more your budget will allow.

Depending on how comfortable your balance card looks, shortlist your second group further. You can either choose a handful of people from this group and buy them thoughtful gifts or cut back on the budget for each individual and buy all of them similarly priced gifts at a warehouse store or discount store. Be creative. Even if your budget doesn’t allow a gift for everyone, you could still send them Free Christmas Ecards or personalized photo ecards. Or give them a box of home made cookies. At a time when people are trying to cut corners and save every penny, gift certificates or gift cards to bakeries and coffee shops or gas cards would all be appreciated more than you can imagine.

Tip: If you’re completely clueless as to what to get somebody, the best way to find out is by talking to them. Just call them up, chat with them for a few minutes, ask what they have been up to, what their Christmas plans are and how they have been – and within a few minutes – you will have surely learnt something about them that will give you great gift ideas.

Christmas Gifts – Sometimes, Less is More

Somebody please tell me, when did December creep up on me? My “to do” list says it’s time for a Christmas post and I can’t believe it’s just a few weeks away.

Some of us are probably not done with Thanksgiving leftovers yet….how could it be time for Christmas already?

So, if you’re grabbing your coat and bag to rush out to the mall to find the coolest bargains before they’re gone, wait. These tips could save you lots of time and some hard-earned money.

  • Never buy gifts for people because you have to. If someone is not really very close to you, then why waste time and energy trying to find an inexpensive gift for them that they will probably not use anyway? Too many of us fall into this trap of buying something, because it’s supposed to be better than nothing. I have news for you – it’s not. Unless you really know someone well, know what they might like, feel a special bond and really want to buy a gift for them – don’t. You’d be better off taking them out for coffee or simply wishing them a Merry Christmas in the hallway or the street. They’re more likely to remember and appreciate THAT than a pair of re-wrapped socks.
  • Always make a list and stick to it. Never head out to the mall without a list. It’s one of the most dangerous places to be in as far as your wallet is concerned. One minute you will be going in counting a handful of things you need to buy and 6 hours later you will be walking out with a dozen bags in each hand without a clue as to what hit you. You’ll find more tips on how to make a good shopping list that saves you time and money in the next post.
  • Buy bulk gifts whenever possible. Visit warehouse stores and find bargains on items such as stationary, books, clothes and other items. With one such bulk pack, you could strike off two or three people off your gift list.
  • Use Coupons. Do not throw away the flyers and coupons you receive in your mail, in magazines and newspapers. Clip them and save them. Even if you don’t find anything you like, you could always trade it with someone else who may be looking for those items. A book of neatly organized coupons in itself would make a good gift for a savvy shopper in your family.
  • Do not underestimate the value of FREE! Many of us don’t realize that some of the best gifts are still free. For something to be valuable, it doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. Your time, for example is one of the best gifts there is. There are so many different ways you could use it to make someone else’s day better. You could offer to baby-sit your friend’s or sister’s kids for a few hours. For free. You could spend an hour reading to your nieces and nephews or to your kid’s class. For free. You could drive up to see your grandma in the senior center and spend an entire day with her. Or just take a day off and surprise your spouse, friend or mom at work, take them out to lunch or for a walk. The consumer culture we have all been subjected to has led us to forget the incredible value of free gifts that mean a whole lot more than a shopping bag full of unwanted clutter.

And on the same note- guess what else is completely free, creates no clutter and makes your loved ones smile even before they open it?

Free Christmas Ecards.  And, we’ve got plenty of those here.

Have a great Holiday Season!

Christmas Over Budget

Free Chritmas Ecards

Free Chritmas Ecards


As the years go by, it seems our families and circles of friends only get larger.  While this is great most of the time, when holidays roll around, and it’s time to start thinking about buying gifts, the headaches can be unbearable.  One year, a couple of Christmases ago, I decided to buy gifts for every member of my family, and every friend I had.  To save money, I bought everyone tacky little trinkets.  Of course, when they opened their gifts on Christmas Day, everyone smiled and said how much they loved their gifts, but I could tell: they were thinking, Why the heck did he get me this?  The end result?  I wasted—yes, wasted—a lot of money.

The next year, I decided to just focus on my closest family members and friends.  That meant I could afford to buy my brother the DVD set he wanted, and my parents absolutely loved the personally-engraved ‘family tree’ gift: a ceramic tree, fitted with photographs of each of their three children.  And as for everyone I didn’t guy gifts for?  I called them on the phone, each and every one of them, and told them how much they meant to me.  They loved the gesture, and, in many ways, it was better than receiving gifts.

This year, I’m adding free ecards onto the list, along with thoughtful phone calls.  The free christmas e-cards at are completely free, and the only time they take is the time I spend choosing just the right card.  You should try it, too: it’s a great way to not only save money, but also to let everyone in your life know how much you truly care.