The holidays are almost upon us now, and with them comes anticipation of joy in the hearts of so many people, eager to get together and share time with friends and family. Unfortunately for many individuals, the joy of celebration is offset by stress caused by difficulties in shopping. In fact, according to a survey from the American Psychological Association, 38% of respondents report that their stress rises when the holidays roll around, noted U.S. News & World Report.
You can cut down on holiday-induced stress by getting serious about organizing your holiday shopping. Here are some tips to help you get it together before you open your wallet.
1. Set a Budget
While you do want to be as generous as possible with your loved ones, none of them would be happy to hear that you are going into debt just to give them holiday gifts. Establish a realistic budget and use that to guide your holiday purchases.
It’s okay to have a little wiggle room, but if you drastically overspend on one particular gift, you might feel guilty about spending less on other people’s items.
2. Plan What to Buy Before Setting Foot Inside a Store
Ideally, you will have a good idea of holiday purchases prior to entering local brick and mortar shops. If you have time, you could compare online reviews and then check what various stores are charging in your area.
Otherwise, it is easy to get carried away with impulse buys from attractive products you don’t actually need for holiday celebrations or for gifts.
3. Shop Online
If you’re not already making purchase online, now would be a good time to start. You’ll save money not having to drive everywhere, especially when stores are out of popular items you are hoping to get before the holidays. Online shopping could save you time, and websites often recommend similar products, making purchases even more convenient.
4. Know Your Limit
You know from your budget how much you can allocate for each person’s gift. Assuming you were realistic about the budget, you will want to stay within spending limits, as this helps you stay organized. Don’t keep buying when you’ve reached this limit. Look for alternative items to purchase instead of breaking the bank.
5. Consider Secret Santa
In large, extended families, relatives could easily go broke trying to purchase nice gifts for every person under the roof. To make the situation less stressful, you can organize your group for a Secret Santa event. Write everyone’s name on slips of paper and put them in a hat for a random drawing. Each member of your extended family will only give one gift to one person. This way, you dedicate more time and money to one gift, emphasizing quality over quantity.
Secret Santa also works in office settings, where you want to express holiday cheer but cannot afford to find gifts for all of your associates. Check with the human resources department about company policy if you have any questions about starting Secret Santa exchanges with coworkers, such as spending limits or off-limit gifts (perhaps alcohol would be prohibited, for example).
6. Organize Receipts
Keep track of your receipts by placing them inside of an envelope or folder. This way, if someone needs to return an item, such as to get a different size or color of clothing, you can quickly give them the paperwork for the exchange. The receipts are also needed in case an item breaks and needs to be serviced by the manufacturer’s warranty program. Keeping these receipts handy will make repairs and replacements much easier.
7. Arrange for Packaging, Postage and Cards Well Ahead of Time
Remember that some of the presents you shop for will not be handed out in person. For items that you are mailing, get organized and buy boxes, wrapping paper, tape, ribbons and cards as well as sufficient postage (if you don’t use a home postage printing system). Take note of the last date when you can comfortably mail items and still get them to recipients on time.
Start Shopping Earlier Next Year?
If you still experience any stress or other issues because of holiday shopping this year, there’s no need to fret. Take a few deep breaths to help you relax and remind yourself that the gift giving is designed to help you spread love and happiness amongst friends, family and coworkers. You can also find relief by making sure to start your holiday shopping a bit earlier next year, so you feel less deadline pressure.