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The holiday season is fast approaching, and that means buying holiday gifts for your kids, spouse, other family members and friends. Even for someone like me who does not particularly enjoy shopping, it’s easy to get carried away and overspend. Here are 7 practical tips that will help you save time, money or both this holiday season.

 1.) Make a list of people for whom you want to buy holiday gifts

Start by making a list of people, so that you don’t forget anyone and hurt their feelings (or have to buy an expensive gift at the last minute). Personally, I use a spreadsheet to stay organized. This way, every year I have to spend just a few minutes updating the list, rather that starting completely from scratch. I use the same spreadsheet to remind myself of their tastes and preferences if I don’t know the person very well (Savory or sweet? Favorite music? Coffee drinker? Etc.)

list-budget2.) Set a holiday gift budget – and stick to it

I use the same spreadsheet to set an overall budget and a (rough) budget for each person. This helps keep the overall spending under control, and saves time by limiting the range of gift options by price point.

3.) Make homemade or custom gifts

If you are crafty, make homemade gifts for your friends and family. Not only does it save you money, but it also shows your unique personality and interest in the person for whom you made the gift. In our family, we make a lot of custom gifts with photos of our kids – it’s not exactly homemade, but it is custom. Their grandparents, who live on another continent, really appreciate seeing their beloved grandchildren on photo books or coffee mugs.

Homemade-gifts4.)  Stock up on chocolates and gift baskets

I love shopping for holiday food items at Costco – they have a great selection at a wide range of prices. Savory or sweet, big or small, they’ve got it all. My kids’ perennial favorites are the big (Costco-sized!) bags of milk chocolate gold coins that are just $9.99 a bag. The only challenge is rationing the coins so that the kids aren’t gorging on sweets every day for a year!

Costco-gift-baskets-and-chocolates5.) Order gifts on Amazon to ship directly to recipient

When I’m buying a gift for someone who lives far away, I order it on Amazon and have it shipped directly to the recipient. I love that the gifts come with a gift wrap and a custom message. I also appreciate that if they don’t like the gift, they can easily exchange it for something else. And when I’m not sure what gift to get them, I just email them an Amazon gift card.


6.) Buy gift cards

Speaking of gift cards, my go-to places for gift cards are Amazon (especially for cards that I send to people who live far away) and Costco (for gift cards that I give in person). Costco is the only place that I know where I can buy gift cards for popular restaurants, movie theaters, amusement parks, gyms and spas at 20% off.


7.) Give cash gifts

And last but not least: a great time-saving (though not exactly money-saving) “hack” is to give a gift of cash. It’s sure not to be returned or exchanged!