Ask the Organizer: How Can I Make Holiday Gift Shopping Less Stressful?

Professional organizer Kelly Humiston, owner of New Leaf Organizing Service, offers tips for making holiday gift shopping less stressful.

Q.  Every year, I wind up shopping for Christmas gifts at the last minute, paying extra for expedited shipping, and spending more than I wanted to – all of which adds to my overall stress.  What do you recommend to make holiday shopping less of an ordeal?

A.  You’re not alone.  With the myriad responsibilities at home and work that we all have to attend to, not to mention the social obligations in November and December, holiday gift shopping is a major stressor for many people this time of year.  Fortunately, there are some steps you can take to make holiday gift shopping less stressful:

  • First, make a complete list and, like Santa, check it twice.  Whether it’s a handwritten list on paper, a Word or Excel document, or a note to yourself on your smartphone, your list should be complete and include the following:
    • Recipient’s name
    • The target amount of money you want to spend on that person
    • Gift ideas for him/her, if any
    • What you eventually buy for that person
    • The total cost of what you spend on that person

For budgeting purposes, don’t forget to include charities you intend to donate to, as well as people that you will want to tip, such as your hairdresser, babysitter, housekeeper, etc.  Some people include the cost of home decorations (like trees and wreaths), holiday cards and postage, and meals/entertaining costs, as well.  Once you add up the total budgeted amount, tweak individual amounts accordingly so that you arrive at a budget amount that is manageable for you.

Pro tip:  If you find that you tend to overspend, consider purchasing gift cards from the stores you shop at most often for your recipients and then use those cards to pay for your purchases.  That way, when the gift card balance gets to $0, you’re done!

  • Buy as much as you can online and take advantage of free shipping.  What could be less stressful than lounging in your sweats on your sofa, doing your shopping from your laptop?  But before clicking on the “Submit My Order” icon on the checkout page, always go first to an online coupon site like www.retailmenot.com or www.couponcabin.com to see if there are any promo codes or coupons you can use to get a discount or free shipping on your order.

Pro tip:  On December 17th this year (“Free Shipping Day”), more than 1,000 merchants with online stores will offer free shipping as well as other discounts with guaranteed delivery by December 24th.  For a listing of participating merchants, go to www.freeshippingday.com.

  • Hold on to those receipts.  As you purchase gifts, stash the receipts in one envelope that you keep in your purse, wallet, or briefcase.  For items you purchase online, be sure to print out the receipts with shipping information and put them in there, as well.  This will come in handy should there be a problem with delivery, or if you need to return/exchange the gift after the holiday.
  • Avoid the post office on Saturdays and Mondays.  In December, Saturdays and Mondays are busy days at the post office; if you go there to mail packages or buy stamps, be prepared to wait in long lines.  Try going instead on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays or Fridays, if at all possible.

Pro tip:  This year, the U.S. Postal Service recommends mailing holiday cards by December 20th in order to arrive by Christmas Eve.  For domestic priority mail packages, the deadline is December 21st; for domestic express mail packages, the cutoff is December 22nd.

How about you, readers? What tips do you use to minimize your holiday gift shopping stress?

If you would like the help of a professional organizer, consider contacting New Leaf Organizing Service at www.newleaforganizingservice.com or at (203) 450-1099.  We organize things big and small — once and for all.

Have an organizing question you’d like answered?  Feel free to submit it on Patch.com, via the Comments function, or e-mail it to Kelly directly at kelly@newleaforganizingservice.com.

Coming next time:  Tips for Storing Your Holiday Decorations and Supplies

© 2012 New Leaf Organizing Service. All rights reserved.

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