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Holiday Shopping Series Part 1: Making a Shopping List

Last fall I discovered Slickdeals and became completely obsessed with finding deals. I spent WAY WAY too much time chasing down online and in-store deals, but I learned a lot. And the results were fantastic: I got free photo holiday cards and thank you cards, bought holiday gifts for 26 family & friends, was able to gift preschool teachers and toddler playgroup members, gave over $100 worth of toys to Toys for Tots, and took care of 6 Nov/Dec birthday gifts, PLUS I bought decorations, wrapping paper, and tape for the next year.

All that–and I only spent a little over $300! Between gift cards, bringing money in on Ebay, and super-shopping (mostly CVS and Target), I spent a lot less than the value of what I gave. In addition, I got my shopping done well before December, so I had that month to relax, enjoy my family, bake and do anything else that came up.

Does this sound appealing to you? I hope so! Once you've completed this exercise, you will have a trimmed-down shopping list ready to take into the fall months.

  1. Brainstorm a List. If you really want to save money, tackle this project the same way you do grocery shopping–make a list. Brainstorm everyone you need to shop for, and go ahead and throw any October-December birthdays in there too.
  2. Categorize the List. I create one category for those who absolutely must get gifts, like my kids and my mom. Then I make a category for the next level down, including friends and more distant relatives. The third category is for teachers and servicepeople. The final category is for charities you wish to support, such as Toys for Tots.
  3. Be Brutal. This is the part where it can get touchy. Take a look at that second category–friends and relatives–and ask yourself: Do I need to buy gifts for all these people? Probably not. Sometimes, you get into a pattern with friends and family that continues until it actually causes stress (not to mention unnecessary expense).

On one side of our family, now that we all have kids, we decided to rotate a family every year. Instead of buying gifts for 6 adults and 7 kids, we're assigned one family and we give them a “family gift.” It's easier, less stressful, and costs less. With one set of close friends, I asked them earlier this year how they felt about stopping holiday gifts (for the sake of the budget, but also because my kids don't need more). We agreed to do birthday gifts but not the holidays, and that took a load off my mind.

September is the perfect time to approach friends and relatives with the suggestion to alter your gift-giving patterns. Chances are, some or all of them will be relieved to cut back on the gift obligations.

What questions or concerns do you have? I'm working on my list now…

**Update: Read more in the Holiday Shopping Series.

Cook Once, Eat 10 Times (Summer Edition)
Monthly Grocery Budget