Step By Step Guide To Your Holiday Shopping

Step By Step Guide To Your Holiday Shopping

The Guide to Holiday Shopping

They hype. The hysteria.

The holidays.

Yes. We’re right in the thick of it. ‘Tis the season to hook a drain tube up to your wallet and watch your cash flow disappear faster than a Kardashian marriage.

But, it’s ok, because it’s all in the name of “SAVING MONEY”

People Love To Save Money One Day A Year

In the day and age of “ONE DAY DEALS”, there’s more hype than ever over saving a TON of money buying your loved ones the “perfect gift.” Just Google the term “Black Friday deals” and you’ll be hit with a barrage of news articles, store websites with dedicated shopping sections, and even an entire website dedicated to display ALL the deals surrounding the saddest day of the year.

With MILLIONS of dollars spent advertising all the “savings” around a single day, it’s no wonder people jump in line (sometimes for days at a time!) to make sure they don’t miss out. Everyone is led to believe that they will be saving SO MUCH MONEY that it’s worth it to forego showers for up to a week and stand in line with a bunch of people you’d never invite to your home so you can POSSIBLY run over a child in the midst of your B-line to TV section where you can wrestle someone to the ground over last year’s TV model with no features…just to save $50.

Holiday shopping, and especially Black Friday, has turned into a MANIA, where people lose their minds over a few deals on electronics and video games. It does not surprise me that the average US household owes over $16,000 in credit card debt! People love to pretend that saving money is a priority, but in reality, they want an excuse to buy something they CANNOT WAIT FOR, and Black Friday gives them the golden excuse.

Let’s Be Honest, Shall We?

Spending more than we can afford is very American, is it not? From borrowing to buy a new car, to putting Christmas on the credit cards, the word “no” is not in our financial vocabulary.

But every commercial we see, or advertisement we read tries to give us the feeling that by SPENDING we are really SAVING money (hint: we’re not). They also use words like “stress-free” and “you deserve this” as a way to help you part with your money on impulse.

Interestingly enough, had an interview with a retail analyst from Forrester Research, and they confirmed this exact sentiment. Here are a few quotes from that interview:

“Overall, the best holiday deals don’t happen on Black Friday. They usually happen right before Christmas and after. Analysts have been saying that to shoppers for years, and it’s something we should all know, but we still go out.”

“Kuhnen says our financial decisions are governed essentially by two centers in our brain. One is the fear anxiety center — the part of our brains that reacts to panic or makes us run away from danger. The other is the reward center — the part that’s a trigger when we’re happy, Kuhnen says.”

“That go-for-it impulse is what makes the holiday season run. Every single part of the holidays — the music, the food, for some of us the family — goes to get us excited and to activate that primitive part of our brain…..

So they tend to take on more financial risk, they tend to prefer, much more strongly, immediate rewards rather than delayed rewards….”

So as we can see, the deck is completely stacked against us, with millions and millions of dollars in research planned out to suck consumers dry, and make them feel good about going further into debt at the same time.

A Different Approach

What if we could stack the deck in our favor and approach the holidays with a plan that truly allows us to save money? Not in the “I saved $19 on a knock-off version of monopoly” kind of way.


Let’s approach this holiday season with our eyes wide open. Let’s approach it with an actual MONEY plan.

Step By Step Guide To Your Holiday Shopping

Armed with the knowledge that someone is trying to sell you something YOU DON’T REALLY NEED at every turn, follow the below bullet-proof guide to ensure you buy all the gifts you WANT, and nothing you don’t.

  1. Make A List Of Names. First thing’s first, make your shopping list of names. For us, we have a list of about 20-25 people (a LOT, I know) that we write down. Making this list also helps decide who you are NOT going to be shopping for. This may be a difficult decision, but better to make it now than when you are in the throes of despair between the LEGO aisle and the board game aisle in Toys R’ Us. This is the foundation of your holiday shopping plan.
  2. Come Up With A Number. How much do you love the people on your list? Pick a number between 1 and 50 and assign it to each person. JOKING! What you need to do next is come up with a budget for each person on the list. This requires that you pick a TOTAL budget number for gifts, for ALL people on your list. Then you need to split that total between the people on your list, making sure you DO NOT plan to spend more than your budgeted amount. For example, if you have $500 to spend on gifts, the total amount you plan to spend on each person in the list CANNOT be more than $500.
  3. Come Up With Gift Ideas. You (hopefully) know each person on your list. They are family or friends that you plan on buying a gift for, and you should be able to think of a few things each person would like. Come up with 2 or 3 ideas for each person, keeping in mind how much you can spend on them. This will help inform your shopping plan to make sure you don’t wander around stores for too long trying to think of what to buy.
  4. Keep An Eye Out For Deals. Now that you have your shopping list and budget, you can be on the lookout for deals on things that you can buy for the people on your list. THIS POINT IS KEY! This will help keep you from getting pulled into DEAL MANIA and help you ignore all the ads about things you don’t really need, and the people on your list don’t actually want.

Ideally, you can use this plan starting at the beginning of the year, save each month for Christmas gifts, and buy most of your gifts before the holidays even start.

But the beauty of this plan is it works just as well starting RIGHT NOW! How do I know? Because we’re going to use this exact plan for our shopping this year. I know, I know, I should have already taken care of this, but we didn’t make this list in January, and are going to start shopping now. We’ve already picked up a few gifts and have money set aside, but haven’t written down all the names and gift ideas yet. We’ll be completing our plan and hitting the stores with a FAIL-PROOF plan of action.

And because it’s the holidays and I want to help people with their own Christmas shopping, I’ve put together this plan in a PDF that you can print and use during your holiday shopping! It’s a full checklist with all the items mentioned above, the perfect way to organize your holiday shopping plans!

Click HERE for a FREE download of your Holiday Shopping Checklist!

I hope you can avoid the retail madness, and enjoy the freedom of having a money plan this holiday season.  Happy shopping! 🙂


  1. A great guide to holiday shopping. The best way to shop efficiently and not spend an outrageous amount of money is to thoroughly plan ahead. It kind of sounds like you are going to war or something, but it kind of feels like it when you are battling the holiday shoppers. So many consumers drive up their credit card balances and dip into accounts they shouldn’t. This is a great way to create a game plan and get the most bang for your buck.

    • I like the WAR analogy. It truly is a battle. Retailers want to weaken your defenses to gain access to your wallet, and you need to take up your weapons (budget and shopping plan checklist) to battle for financial freedom!

  2. I heart checklists and your approach is a great one, I actually extend it to the whole year. From time to time you’ll see that thing in May that would be perfect for your brother in law or something. Having that list makes it easier to remember that “oh yeah, I got him an X already.”
    Jim Wang recently posted..How to Earn a Southwest Companion Pass Without Spending $110,000My Profile

  3. I actually do all of these things – making a list of people, gift ideas, etc. early in the year and watch for good deals and things they’d love all year long.
    Cat@BudgetBlonde recently posted..10 Financial Questions to Ask Before MarriageMy Profile

  4. Our holiday shopping is done already! Whew! I bought some holiday gifts for people while we were in Italy (religious gifts at the Vatican, scarves, olive oil, etc.) and did the rest online. I hate shopping when it’s not busy. I’m avoiding stores until after the holidays are over.
    Holly@ClubThrifty recently posted..A Tree Fell at Out Rental House: Here’s What We DidMy Profile

  5. I use gift cards but even those seem pointless. If all we do is exchange gift cards what’s the point in that? How about celebrating Christmas buy sharing time with friends and family and being thankful for what we have. Instead of going out and blowing huge sums of money buying stuff for people that they may not like?

  6. Instead of getting each person in a family individual gifts, consider getting a family gift: a game/puzzle/etc for the smaller budget or an “experience” membership like the zoo/aquarium/childrens’ museum/etc for a larger budget (or see if others in your extended family want to combine funds). Don’t forget to account for work or church group gift exchanges, mailing packages, postage for cards, printing costs for cards, wrapping supplies, stocking stuffers, etc. In the past, those things surprised us and threw off our budget, now we remember to include those costs because I’ve added them to our Christmas spending spreadsheet. Also, we typically draw names for gifting to adults in our family so our list isn’t so long and we can afford to spend a little more per person.

    • Cecily (hey, I know you!), great call. It’s always the small things that throw the budget out of whack, right?! And yes, family experience gifts and games/puzzles are always a hit, and don’t have to break the bank. And I like the idea of a “gift exchange” and “Christmas Misc” budget to catch all those pesky costs that sneak up on you. 🙂

      Thanks for sharing, great tips!

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