Behind on holiday shopping? Don’t panic

The jig is up!  I know some of you haven’t finished your holiday shopping or (gasp) even started yet. I know this because I’m behind too, which is why I wrote this post to help us get going.

When you’re down to the wire, it’s easy to panic and go over budget on holiday gifts.  Don’t get me wrong, we all want to spoil our loved ones and show them how much we care with extravagant gifts, but it’s not always easy, especially with the economy still lagging behind.  After spending the first months of 2010 trying to scrape up the little money I had left after spending all my savings on gifts, I decided that this year would be different:  I would figure out a way to make everyone happy and still leave myself financial breathing room.

If you’re thinking yeah yeah, but homemade gifts take planning ahead, and as we discussed the time for that has come and gone,–read on!  While homemade gifts are still an option, there are plenty of other ideas here for level-headed, on-budget shopping:

  • Make a List: A mistake I’ve made in the past is going holiday shopping without having a specific shopping list.  Write down the names of people you need to shop for and give yourself a price range for each person.  Once that’s done, make sure the total is within your budget.  You don’t want to overspend on one person thinking it was your last gift and then realize you forgot to buy your sister’s present.
  • Do Your Research: Do your homework before you start shopping by comparing prices online – Google shopping is a great way to get ideas and compare prices among different retailers.
  • Avoid the Crowds: If you prefer shopping in stores, try to go during off-peak hours so that the crowds are smaller and you get stuff done faster.  When you’re stuck in the mall for hours, you can get distracted and lose your focus, not to mention cranky.
  • Consider Shopping Online: Some would rather shop online than venture into the crowded, carol-blasting stores. That’s perfectly fine, but make sure shipping is free or low cost – those extra shipping bucks can really add up.  Oh and of course – make sure they can ship it on time!
  • Make Gifts: A thoughtful alternative would be to make or bake your gifts this year.  Not only does it save you money, but it makes your gift really personal and meaningful.  You can make fun jewelry, knit a scarf, put together a photo album filled with great memories, bake cakes or cookies and include a little recipe book with a few of your specialties… This can be a fun way to spend your Sunday afternoon with your kids, friends or whoever wants to join.  But be careful, this alternative might be time consuming so make sure to plan ahead (i.e. do it this weekend).
  • Give Your Time: Another original alternative could be to provide services instead of presents this year. Make a book of coupons for free home cooked dinners, a car wash, or even a 30-minute massage.  This shows your loved ones how much you care and might be a lot more appreciated than a gift certificate to the mall.

Although presents are very much a part of holiday traditions, remember that this time of year is all about love and joy with family and friends – so don’t let shopping overwhelm your holiday season.

Since, as I said, I’m behind on my shopping , tips from you are more than welcome—how do you get your last-minute shopping done?  If you’re someone who’s already finished, tell me how you did it!