How To Survive Holiday Shopping

Fortnum & Mason Christmas Tree

I love holiday shopping, but while I may dream of wafting around a beautifully decorated mall easily choosing present after present and ticking names off my list, that image used to be a long way from reality for me. Dazzled by the huge array of catalogues, advertisements and gift guides, I’d find myself aimlessly wandering through the shops as Christmas approached desperately searching for the perfect gifts and wondering how to survive holiday shopping.

Holiday shopping isn’t easy. From September onwards we are assailed by advertising and media images of perfect families with designer Christmas trees, gifts spilling out from under the pine boughs. It’s easy to be lured into buying things you really can’t afford as well as give you nightmares as you dread the arrival of your January bills. But it doesn’t have to be this way.

First of all we need to clear something up. Those Hallmark Holidays, the chocolate box advertisements, the glossy ads in Vogue and other magazines? They are SO not real. Manufactured in the brains of a marketing executives, they are designed purely to make you buy things. I’ve never met anyone – from any walk of life – who has that kind of Christmas. It’s time to set ourselves free from trying to duplicate something that isn’t real in the first place.

Another thing – there’s no one size fits all solution to holiday shopping. Here are some of the hints and tips I use, as well as a few tips from my friends. for how to survive holiday shopping. Pick and choose to find the ones that appeal to you so that this year you can survive holiday shopping with your budget and sanity intact. In fact, you might even find yourself enjoying it.

Make a list of people you need to buy gifts for
This includes gifts/tips for those who provide a service to you as well as any holiday birthdays.

Make another list of events you need to buy for
This list includes items such as clothes and shoes for social occasions for all members of the family as well as hostess gifts for any dinners/parties you may be attending.

Be realistic about your budget
Gifts don’t have to be extravagant to be meaningful. The last thing I want is someone buying a gift for me they can’t afford. I think most people feel the same way. Think about ways you can be creative instead – homemade treats make wonderful gifts that are always well received. If you are pressed for time or inspiration, visit Christmas craft fairs for inexpensive handcrafted gifts and ornaments that make beautiful presents.

Consider giving the same gift to more than one person
Last year I found some gorgeous Bobbi Brown makeup pallets that would suit just about anyone. Several women on my gift list were delighted to receive them. I also make it a habit to find one really nice mid-price hamper containing tea, cookies and treats that will suit several others on my list. Buying in multiples can be cheaper and if you order online and have things delivered, it’s stress free too!

Shop in reverse
One of my friends ‘shops in reverse’. Instead of matching gifts to people, she matches people to gifts. Using online shopping sites she knows and trusts, my friend peruses all the available gifts making a note of people who might like to receive them, ticking the recipients off her gift list as she goes. She then places one bulk order – often ordering multiples of the same thing as I suggested above. This lady completes her holiday shopping in just a few hours, within her budget, and she is known for giving the most wonderful gifts.

Shop online as much as possible
Provided you are careful to use reputable retailers and keep your personal information safe, online shopping is a lifesaver. You don’t have to carry heavy parcels or fight the crowds, and some companies will even wrap and ship your gift directly to the recipient – a boon if you live a long way from friends and family.

Plan one day out shopping for the holidays
Do this as early as possible and make it a weekday if you can, even if you have to take a day off work. Arrange childcare if possible so that you can completely focus on the task at hand. You could exchange shopping days/childcare with friends and save money too. Don’t forget both your lists as this can be the day to shop for clothes/shoes and hostess gifts for events you need to attend as well. Arrive just as the shops open to help avoid crowds and long line ups at the tills.

Take advantage of free in store gift wrapping
Many cosmetic counters and speciality stores offer free gift wrapping. I almost always ask – the worse thing they can do is say no! Just be sure to write your gift tags on the spot to avoid confusion!

Buy a couple of emergency cards or gifts
Every year I choose a few random gifts to have on hand ‘just in case’. Last year I had two really nice sets of cheese knives tucked away along with a couple of nice bottles of wine and champagne in gift boxes. I also keep spare boxes of chocolates and a couple of gift cards on hand. Basically, there is something for everyone and if I don’t use them all at Christmas, they will come in handy another time.

Shop for the holidays all year round
From this point on, if you see something that would make a great gift for someone – be it a holiday or birthday gift – buy it on the spot. If it doesn’t fit into your budget at the time make a note of where it is and as soon as you can purchase it do so. I keep a gift drawer containing presents labelled with the recipients names and occasions.  This is great way to spread the cost of holiday and other gift shopping. If you are feeling super organised you can wrap the presents in advance too. Just be sure to label them!

Giving is supposed to make you feel good too, so take my advice and use these simple tips to transform holiday shopping from a nightmare into a real pleasure. Happy Holidays!

* indicates required

Article by April Harris

April has written 1291 great articles for us.
April is a writer, recipe developer, frequent traveller and blogger sharing travel, food, and style. Based in the south of England, April is a British Canadian who is passionate about family, hearth and home, healthy living (with treats!) and the transformative power of travel.
View all posts by


  1. Coincidentally, I just made my list of people to buy for today. I’m lucky, I have a super small family and we generally give each other massive hints for what we’d like, but it still takes a fair bit of mental effort to make sure I don’t forget something. I love your suggestion of buying multiples – spare gifts are an improvement point for me, too.

  2. These are great tips, April. We decided to keep things very low key this year. I still need to get a few things, especially for my boys and Dan, but I don’t feel the pressure quite as much as past years.

    I agree with you when you say that the last thing you want is someone buying you a gift they can’t afford; I also don’t want anyone to feel pressure to check me off their list or be so stressed trying to get gifts that they can’t even enjoy the holidays.

    Thanks so much for sharing on Inspire Me Wednesday.:)

  3. I really need to do a better job of taking advantage of store gift wrapping.

    • I often forget to do that as well. It’s worth asking about it too as the gift wrap station is often tucked away on the top floor of the shop which makes it easy to forget to visit them!



    How To Survive Holiday Shopping – April J Harris

Speak Your Mind