Christmas Shopping Success Comes Down to 3 Things: Time, Energy, Money

christmas shopping success time energy money stress

I can remember the exact moment when Christmas shopping stopped being fun for me.

I was at a local mall, way too close to Christmas. I was exhausted and starving and sweltering, wearing my winter coat in the mall because I didn’t have a free hand to carry it. I had my three kids in tow, including a fussy, fidgety baby.

But I had one more gift to buy.

(There are so many things wrong with the above scenario that I don’t even know where to start. How did I let myself get into that mess?)

*****     *****     *****

This year, I want to reclaim the FUN of Christmas shopping. (And if it’s not always fun, I at least want to keep it palatable.) That comes down to 3 things:

1. Managing My Time.

2. Managing My Money.

3. Managing My Energy (aka Minimizing Stress of all kinds).

Those are the big 3: time, money, and stress. Let’s look at how to systematically eliminate these barriers so you can have a fun (or at least palatable) holiday shopping experience.

Managing Time

• Keep a running list of gift ideas. Here’s a snippet from mine:

• When you find a gift you like, buy it. 

If you’re a maximizer by nature, give yourself permission to NOT comparison shop.

• Shop from home.

• Ask people for gift ideas instead of spending hours searching for ideas online.

• Use a tool like Amazon Universal Wish List to make it easier on people shopping for you.

Managing Money

• Set a budget and stick to it. There are great resources available if you don’t want to make your own. Get Simple Mom’s free budget printable here, or use the worksheets in Jessica’s new (and excellent) ebook A Simpler Season.

• Sign up for Ebates to earn cash back or Amazon gift cards on online purchases. You can sign up here.

• Sign up for Swagbucks and use their search engine to rack up free Amazon gift cards. it’s a little late for this year–you can probably accumulate $10-$20 worth of Amazon credit between now and Christmas, which isn’t much. But start now to start saving for next year.

Consider shopping for Black Friday or Cyber Monday deals. (I don’t hit the stores on Black Friday–too stressful–but I do my kids’ annual jeans shopping on Thanksgiving morning in my pajamas.)

Managing Energy/Minimizing Stress

• Start now. Right now, you’ve got plenty of time.

• Plan, plan, plan. A good plan will keep your stress levels down and let you see potential problems well in advance–so you can make other arrangements.

• Carefully consider whether it’s worth it before embarking on DIY projects. Here’s a flow chart to jog your memory:

• Give yourself a fake deadline–like December 1.

Don’t give “stuff.” Gifting meaningless stuff is a huge stressor for a lot of people (including me). Not sure what would be meaningful to someone on your list? Ask them.

• Focus on what’s really important. Gifts are symbols: they’re not the thing itself. Remembering why you’re shopping can help you keep a healthy perspective.

Start Today

Identify your biggest barrier, and think about how you can systematically eliminate it. Make a plan. Today.

What trips you up the most: time, money, or stress?

photo credits: 1, 2


Leave A Comment
  1. I don’t usually get stressed out by Christmas shopping. We have a set gift budget year-round, so I start buying Christmas presents out of that budget in January. (I’m a gift-giver by nature, so I get a lot of pleasure from finding the perfect gift for the people on my list.) Our list for “bigger” gifts (~$25) is small–everyone else gets a special, homemade family recipe of Christmas oyster crackers.

    I’ve also found that Etsy is a great alternative to mass-produced “stuff.” If I don’t have the time or skill to make something, I find someone on Etsy who can. I recently found a vendor who reproduced my little sister’s long-lost favorite toys for her baby shower.

    • Anne says:

      Yes to Etsy! I enjoy the shopping process more when I’m supporting the smaller vendors–and the things they make are just incredible. (What a great idea for a shower gift!)

  2. A few years ago when I realized I was thinking of the holidays more as something I was obligated to PRODUCE rather than a time to enjoy, it occurred to me that I was frantically trying to continue practices that MIGHT OR MIGHT NOT matter to anyone. I interviewed each child and my husband, asking: What three things/activities/events *make* Christmas for you?

    Their answers were enlightening. Now I try to make sure just THOSE things happen. (They all know they can change their three things, but they’ve stayed pretty much the same.)

  3. Katie says:

    My mom does all her Christmas shopping online right around Thanksgiving, when everyone’s having their big sales. If she can’t buy it online, you probably won’t get it. And if you don’t let her know what you want by then, you will probably just get gift cards (also ordered online). She says her life during the holidays is about a million times better since internet shopping was invented–she only has to brave the grocery stores for food supplies and can spend the rest of her time enjoying the season.

    Online shopping is the way to go when all your family’s out of town, too, since gifts can be shipped straight to the appropriate address (admittedly you lose out on the “fun” of gift-wrapping, if you think that’s fun). But now I shop online even for local people because traffic is the WORST and brings out the worst side of me…blah.

    But hey! Yesterday I was just thinking, “Christmas is coming! Yay!” and then driving home from the gym I saw not one but TWO houses with Christmas lights up already! Which seems a bit early, but it was cheerful.

    • Anne says:

      “She says her life during the holidays is about a million times better since internet shopping was invented.”

      Ha! I think your mom and I would get along great 🙂

  4. melyssa says:

    “Give yourself permission to NOT comparison shop.”

    Boy howdie, that’s a hard one for me!! I stress myself out so much over thinking, double thinking, back tracking…all to save a measly buck. I promise to keep this in mind when I’m loop-dee-looping all over God’s creation to find the six pack of socks instead of the five pack!

    • Anne says:

      Melyssa, even though I KNOW how important it is for me to not comparison shop, I still have to talk myself out of doing it. It’s not easy to resist but I’m soooo much happier when I do!

  5. Deborah says:

    Love the idea of asking what is important to my family. I have been “surviving” the holidays the past few years. And this year I REALLY want to enjoy it!
    Anytime my kids are in a store, they know what we are buying and who for. But if they see something they like, I am happy to add it to their wish list. I use the same ap Anne showed and it is so handy to just keep it all on my phone.

    So Anne, here is your push….I need your family’s wish list so I can start shopping! 🙂
    Looking forward to a joyful holiday season.

  6. Leanne Penny says:

    This is brilliant and as I get ready for Christmas I WILL Use it.

    That flow chart? Phenomenal!

    Also I have somewhat verbally committed to make all our gifts this year, so… I may be crazy.

    In my defense I have many gifts done already?

    Yeah maybe I AM crazy…

    • Anne says:

      Hurray for the already finished gifts! It’s early November yet, so you have time to complete the gifts without entering “crazy” territory. Last year I got myself into trouble when I kept adding new projects to the homemade gifts list even in early December. (I highly recommend NOT doing that–it really is crazy!)

  7. Jillian Kay says:

    I haven’t had Christmas shopping related problems since I stopped buying gifts for most people and started just having a huge party instead. We invite everyone we know and just go for it! It’s a milk & cookies party and I always make 30-50 different kinds of cookies with plenty of leftovers so they can take something home. We love it, and since people started asking me about it in July this year, I think they love it too. I can’t tell you how much stress this has taken away from the holidays.

    I do buy things for my kids, my DH and niece and nephew but that’s all stuff I can buy online, make from scratch, or they get gift cards from the grocery store.

    The internet is my best friend, basically 🙂

    • Anne says:

      Yep, me too 🙂 And I’m taking advantage of the new “secret boards” feature so I can pin gift ideas without worry about who may or may not see it. So handy.

  8. Elizabeth Kane says:

    Agree. “When you find a gift, buy it.” You said the same for clothing shopping, and I agreed with that too.

    I’ve bought so much of the wrong things, that I’m finally starting to feel like I know what to buy with my money that matters. With bad impulse buys comes better shopping skills years later. (Trying to see the silver lining on my bad purchases from years past…)

    And online shopping might be the best thing since anything ever – click, pay, done!

  9. Jamie says:

    One of things that I gave myself permission to do this year is buy things that the recipient will like/want even if it seems destined (in my opinion) to end up as useless, pointless clutter. Being an extremely practical person and NOT a gift-giver by nature, it is hard for me to buy my sister a pile of make-up or jewellery or something seemingly frivolous when my brain immediately wracks up a list of useful, practical things someone in nursing schools needs (or should need, as far as I can tell).

    But this year, I’m not going to have that battle with myself. I will consider myself completely successful if I buy something that makes them happy, and have all my shopping done by December 1st so it isn’t a huge, stressful weight on myself. 🙂

    • Anne says:

      Jamie, I’ve struggled with this in the past, too. It HURTS to pay good money for stuff that seems kind of wasteful to me. But I think you’re right on with this sentiment:

      “I will consider myself completely successful if I buy something that makes them happy.”

      YES. Thanks for sharing!

  10. Miranti says:

    It’s such a shame when gift-giving in the holiday season begins to feel like a chore. But you’ve provided some great tips! I’ve started my Christmas shopping early this year and if I see something that could be a great Christmas present for someone, I buy it then and there instead of waiting. I also totally agree with your tip: don’t give meaningless stuff. Nice one 🙂

  11. Pingback: A Shopping Strategy for Women Who Hate to Shop
  12. Pingback: A Christmas Gallery
  13. I am an INFJ and a maximizer, so I totally resonate with Christmas being just one big rabbit hole. This year, I had my 3 year old make a bunch of the decisions, so if anyone has an issue at least there will a cute face to point in their direction!
    For her, I took her to pick out one gift – a telescope – which I would have hemmed and hawed if she’d actually like it… Then I finally bit the bullet on a $200+ doll that I’ve been wanting to give to her for years. EEK!
    I previously balked at the idea of buying something that expensive that I can easily make… I’ve had the directions to make one and the hair for almost a year now, and while I expected buying to feel defeatist, I actually felt proud that I didn’t keep putting off both options until she was well past the doll phase.

  14. Mattie says:

    I’m hit or miss with how stressful shopping can get. I probably qualify for what you call “a maximizer” so I LOVE getting the most for my money, but more importantly that it is meaningful. My family exchanges names for siblings (4 kids, all 4 married, so girls exchange with girls and boys with boys) and we have a $50 price limit. My parents enjoy giving gifts, so they still buy for us all, and we all buy for them, sometimes going in on a bigger gift together. All the grandkids “exchange names” amongst the parents, again with a price limit (no kids for my husband and I yet, so we either buy them all something small or don’t do anything, because there are 8). On top of that all, we created a Google Doc spreadsheet with everyone on it (including grandkids) and everyone puts gift suggestions on it. All of the above has really helped us all reign in spending, get things people want, and ease up Christmas for our wider family!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.