Friday, December 10, 2010

Making a List and Checking It Twice

Key idea: Make holiday shopping simpler by tracking your purchases in one place.

I love buying presents. I love watching people open their gift. I don't like stressing about gift buying.

Lots of people set a holiday budget, either based on amount per family member or a grand total. I don't have a firm budget. However, for the past four years, I've been tracking my holiday purchases in a basic spreadsheet. Each year my total spending is about the same.

Here is a sample of what the sheet looks like:

Who Item Store  Amount 
Mom Sewing Book Amazon  $    20.00
Suzie Spa Socks Ulta  $     6.00
Jim Gift Card Best Buy  $    25.00

Why I like this system:
  • I can sort by name and see who I purchased gifts for last year. That way I don't forget someone.
  • I can see how much I spent in previous years.
  • It's easy to input ideas for next years' gifts. (Or remind yourself of what you bought ahead and stashed away.)
  • Rather than having a huge stack of receipts, I enter gift info as I make purchases. I still save the receipts for the less decisive family members.
  • The spreadsheet is a quick reference to what I have. I don't need to visit the hiding spot or sort through wrapped gifts and try to remember what's in them. (I tend to wrap immediately in order to prevent peeking.)
  • I can sort by store and see where I've been most successful with finding gifts. That saves me time in future years.
  • A quick scan shows me who still needs something or what else I wanted to buy.
I hope this helps you as you gift buy in the future. This tip comes with a caveat: I am the annoying one who emails family on October 1 asking what everyone wants. This allows me to spend another month politely hounding them for their list. My Mom and I usually go out on Black Friday to finish up our lists. So, when my shopping is done by early December, I can kick back, decorate, bake,  put on the music and think about the real Reason for the season.

Here's hoping that your holiday isn't too stressful. Of course, if you have any tips for gift buying, please share them!


  1. Do you have a similar method for Christmas cards? I'd be curious in that and your suggestions in making sure you don't miss anyone, but aren't sending cards out year after year to folks who don't know who you (I) are (am).

  2. Megan,

    Actually, yes. I just have a label file in Word with all the addresses. Each year I review it and see if any additions or deletions need to be made. I do "cheat" and put labels on my card envelopes.

    Also, I will add people mid-season if I receive a card from someone I want to be sure and include next year.

    My dad has a more complex spreadsheet system where he logs all the cards that come in each year so he can spot trends. I'm not that committed!