Fortunately, I've learned a few tricks over the years to keep my sanity, budget and free time in check.
Make a list--I make a spreadsheet in Excel of who, what, where and how much. This list is king and really helps me stick to my budget. When a person's name is ready to be checked off, I simply highlight their name on the spreadsheet so I know I'm done with them. The list includes gift ideas and/or that person's wish list, so I can go into a store with a good idea of what I'm going to purchase.
Stick to the budget--Once you've determined your Christmas budget, stick to it like Martha on a craft project. Use coupons and sales whenever possible. The cost of Christmas can quickly get out of hand, but you can make your cash stretch farther by shopping sales, using customer loyalty programs and store coupons. For example, at Kohl's they have great sales that can be combined with store coupons, and Kohl's Cash is a great incentive to do my shopping there.
Shop smart--There's no need to shop at forty different stores to find the right gift for everyone on your list. Pick a few stores that offer a wide variety of items, and try to get as many people checked off your list there as possible. For example, my go-to store is Kohl's: with clothes, toys and housewares under one roof, I can do 80% of my Christmas shopping there.
When in doubt, shop with a theme in mind--Don't know what to get someone? Or an entire group of people? Choose a theme and stick to it. For example, go to a bookstore and buy everyone books. Or pajamas. Or Christmas ornaments. Choose an item that can work for everyone on your list, and get all of your shopping done at one store. Genius!
Support local merchants, small businesses and artisans--In the age of large stores and mega sales, this is something we all could be doing better. Make a choice to support small businesses and buy handmade whenever possible.
To that end, I have three (online) small businesses and artisans to recommend:
Darling Clandestine--You all know how much I adore Darling Clandestine. Her fragrances and earrings are simply stunning. Santa has orders for the set of three bottled fragrances (I want Serpentine, Big Top Train and Tapadero) as well as these earrings. This Christmas, I'll have to switch gears and buy for others at Darling Clandestine, rather than thinking only of myself!
Maxwell Apparel--Have a big and tall man on your giving list? This is the place to shop for him. Maxwell Apparel specializes in stylish clothes that are made to fit and flatter men who are big, tall or both. Right now they have a great selection of printed tees, along with plans to expand their line. Check them out!
Dish of the Day--This is an Etsy store I just recently discovered. Dish makes lovely handmade Christmas ornaments. I especially like the set of beaded silver icicles. Looking at Dish's offerings makes me want to buy several ornaments and have them shipped to my house where I can re-wrap them and pass them off as my own handmade gifts. Dishonest? Absolutely. A great solution to any gift-giving dilemma I might have? You bet!
Happy shopping, everyone!