How I Owned my Christmas Shopping This Year.

December 6, 2012

About a month or so ago, I was in featured in the Globe and Mail talking about holiday shopping strategies, and how to save money doing so particularly by online shopping. I loved that article. I printed it and sent it to my mom since she likes collecting anything with our name on it, and national media attention for doing something semi-smart made her that much happier.

The reason I was excited about that article, and why I wanted to specifically share it was because this was the first year that I feel that I did it right. Did what righ? You may ask. My holiday shopping. My goal was to be done by October at the latest, and I got my sh*t together by September AND came in under budget.

Now, I know that you may be shocked. My mom certainly was. This is a result of years of impulsive shopping, online shopping, and poor buying decisions. Yes, I, the incredibly charming young woman, who gets to tell people how to spend their money at work all day, was an idiot. If you’re long time reader of my site, you may know the story of my $1200 jeans, if you’re new here, well, you’re in for a treat.

But I digress.

I just really want to talk about how I got better things than the last few years (when I may have freaked out and bought things last minute) and spent half of my budget. I also want to talk about how I set a budget and how I’m already working on next years list.

Holiday gifts on a budget

Does anyone else make their christmas list in January? I did. Keep in mind that I have 3 siblings, a godson who I adore (read: spoil), and bunch of friends so close that even my mother considers them family. All in all, I buy actual presents for about 20 people or so, and then a few here for there for co-workers, teammates etc.

Making your list in January has its drawbacks, too. For starters, its really hard to know what people would need by December. People like my parents are easy to shop for. They like practical things. My godson on the other hand is incredibly difficult because his tastes change so quickly, and well, he’s 7.

It worked out for me this year because I had a rough idea of what I wanted to get for people. Having specific items makes things more complicated. For example, if I know that my sister has a fondness for Designer sunglasses, but will never buy them herself, I’ll make a note to look for those.

I paid attention to the sales cycles, and found deals in the off season ie. buying a snowblower for my parents at the end of winter when they are on clearance, or snowboarding gear for my brother. I also enjoy online shopping more than being in the stores now. Keep in mind that these are my holiday shopping strategies and they may not work for everyone.

I also diligently checked the daily deal sites. I have to say that I lived in email spam hell for a few months, but it was worth it since I could carefully select what  I wanted by online shopping. Sometimes you get the best deals if you use your imagination.  Spa days, photoshoots, etc. are great presents if you think about it.

I don’t know if you know, but I get carried away sometimes or buy things and forget that I got them. I created a spreadsheet on laptop, and a check list in my planner and on my Blackberry that allowed me to remember what I bought especially if those purchases were a result of online shopping.

And finally, I divided what I wanted to spend for Christmas and divided it by 26 (my previous pay cycle). I knew what I had to put away and set it up so it automatically transferred to a different account.

The best part was that I spent 55% of my budget which means that I may go away on a trip that has nothing to do with work, or I can do the responsible thing.

Hey, I never said I was perfect.


Do you have any holiday shopping strategies that work for you?

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  • Cassie December 6, 2012 at 10:18 am

    I’m a bit of a power shopper when it comes to Christmas. The actual planning part of it takes place months in advance (my sister and I started coordinating parental gifts over the summer). I write out a list of who I’m shopping for, what I’m getting them, and where I’m getting it from, and then do all of my shopping in 1 or 2 trips close to November. This way I have all year to watch for things I think someone might like, then still have time to get things wrapped and sent out in the mail. As it stands I’m completely done my shopping, everything is wrapped, and now I have the rest of the month to just enjoy the season 🙂

    • Marissa December 6, 2012 at 11:59 am

      Good for you! I kinda love watching people scramble late into the season.

      • Cassie December 6, 2012 at 4:23 pm

        Oh me too, but I prefer to do it from a bench with a latte in hand rather than in the store line ups, lol

        • Marissa December 6, 2012 at 7:02 pm

          mmmm LATTE… MMMM Starbucks 😉

  • Lyn @ Pretty Frugal December 6, 2012 at 10:21 am

    I only buy presents for 6 people each year (I have a small family), but this year I’ll be buying for my boyfriend’s family as well. We are splitting those costs, but I’m not looking forward to the extra chunk out of the budget.

    That said, I’ve done almost all of my shopping online this year and I’m about half done. I love Amazon for holiday gift giving because I don’t spend the holidays with my family and I can get the item shipped directly to the recipient instead of shipping it myself or lugging it across the country the next time I visit.

    • Marissa December 6, 2012 at 7:04 pm

      I’m a huge fan of Amazon. It saves a lot of trouble and things are normally cheaper there.

  • Budget & the Beach December 6, 2012 at 10:35 am

    Wow that’s incredible organization! Congrats on being done. Now you can just sit back and hopefully enjoy the holidays and know you kept your budget in tact as well!

    • Marissa December 6, 2012 at 7:03 pm

      I’m looking at trips to LA for the rest of my savings. 🙂

  • Grayson @ Debt Roundup December 6, 2012 at 10:37 am

    Nice job on finishing early and under budget. I wish I would do that, but I am not very good with the holiday shopping. Luckily my wife handles most of it because she gets off work early in the day and can power through shopping better than I can. I do like your style though.

    • Marissa December 6, 2012 at 7:03 pm

      You (your wife) should try it. It feels awesome.

  • John S @ Frugal Rules December 6, 2012 at 11:47 am

    Awesome work! We do many of the same things, but most importantly we do the same thing in terms of budgeting for it through out the year like you did. We don’t set our lists quite as early as January, but we do shop during the year to get the best prices.

  • Anne @ Unique Gifter December 6, 2012 at 12:28 pm

    Sweet! Nice article, I wasn’t even paywall’d.
    I made a spreadsheet in google docs where I keep ideas and if I buy things for people that don’t fit on my “gift stash shelf,” I make a note of where on earth I stored the thing.
    The spreadsheet has made life So Much Easier!

    • Marissa December 8, 2012 at 4:58 pm

      Awesome! Paywalls make me angry.

  • TB at BlueCollarworkman December 6, 2012 at 4:36 pm

    You know, my wife and I do this too. THere’s always some things that have to wait until near xmas, but overall, we can really only afford to buy a few gifts here and there over the course of the year. So by the time December comes, we’re done. Which is awesome. We can just enjoy the lights and the season!

    • Marissa December 6, 2012 at 7:01 pm

      Does it not feel good to not have to go in the mall in Dec?

  • Shovellicious December 7, 2012 at 4:12 am

    “For anyone who routinely waits until Dec. 20 to start holiday shopping, it’s easy to hate someone like Marissa Anwar. The operations consultant from Waterloo, Ont., finished all her holiday shopping back in September – and she managed to stick to her budget, too.” No, I don’t hate you, I felt inspired for the next year 😉 Congrats on that, you did a great job, now you can enjoy and relax 🙂

    • Marissa December 8, 2012 at 4:58 pm

      You found it!

  • DC @ Young Adult Money December 7, 2012 at 2:00 pm

    Good for you! We tried to plan ahead as much as possible this year, and it really does make it easier to enjoy the holidays when most of your shopping is done a little more in advance.

    • Marissa December 8, 2012 at 4:59 pm

      It makes the holiday a lot more fun.

  • Andy Hough December 7, 2012 at 2:18 pm

    Nice job of getting your Christmas shopping done early and under budget. My Christmas strategy is to get everyone to agree not to buy me a present and I in return will not buy them a present. It is a win-win and eliminates the inefficiency of gift giving. My mom is the only one who won’t agree to the no gift giving, so I still have to get her a gift and receive a gift.

    • Marissa December 8, 2012 at 4:59 pm

      That’s an interesting way of doing it.

  • Elizabeth @ Broke Professionals December 8, 2012 at 7:23 pm

    I tend to make my list throughout the course of the whole year, but I agree about the kids – I have two little ones, and making lists ahead of time for them is SO HARD because their tastes AND their abilities change; it’s tough to know what’ll be age and ability appropriate in December nine, six, even three months ahead of time!

  • Janine December 9, 2012 at 10:41 pm

    Just read the article! That’s so exciting! I start saving for Christmas in January too and have it automatically transferred each month. I didn’t start as early as you, but I was almost done in November. Just have a few more things to pick up! Great Job =)

    • Marissa December 10, 2012 at 2:44 pm

      🙂 My mom is super proud of me.

  • Veronica @ Pelican on Money December 10, 2012 at 1:18 am

    You’re so organized, wow. Far far different situation here 🙂 I usually buy presents last minute if not at all. This year I still haven’t gotten anything lol.

    • Marissa December 10, 2012 at 2:44 pm

      Oh man, I would be panicking.

  • My Money Design December 10, 2012 at 9:35 pm

    Nicely done! Why NOT buy things for Christmas or save all year along? I bought Legos for my son in July when I saw a huge set he wanted 50% off!

    That’s great you’re using the money you saved for a trip. That’s exactly what I’d want to do with it too!

  • Aloysa @ My Broken Coin December 10, 2012 at 10:04 pm

    You indeed owned your Xmas shopping. Me – not so much. I am an impulsive shopper, emotional and addictive. I try to stay away from stores and malls. I am somewhat lucky to the extend that my family and friends do not like to exchange gifts for Christmas. So, I don’t really need to shop that much. But every time I shop I buy a gift for a friend, I also buy something for myself. Awful

  • David December 12, 2012 at 7:02 pm

    Hi Marissa,
    People should be as organized as you are. In fact. logical shopping strategies will do wonders for consumers especially during the holidays. Diligence is also the key just as you have mentioned in your post.

  • Timothy Mobley December 19, 2012 at 5:08 pm

    Great post! I am all about giving thoughtful gifts and focusing on what people really need as opposed to want. For kids, I think it may be better to do things together than buy gifts.