I am not an early Christmas shopper. My children are grown as are my nieces and nephews. My list is shorter now than it was in the past. I prefer to wait until a couple of weeks before Christmas to do my shopping. I kick into hyper-drive, get organized and get it done. In the past I got caught up in the spirit of the season and blew my budget. Now I have a system for staying on track; a system that has worked well for about ten years. It takes a lot of the stress out of shopping too.
Begin with a business size envelope. Label the top of the envelope Christmas 2010. This will be your record keeper and your container for all receipts.
Make a list that includes each individual whom you buy for and assign a dollar amount for gifts. Include sales tax in the budgeted amount. Total your list. It should equal the amount of money that you have to spend. Make adjustments until you get it to balance. Make a rough draft on scratch paper or your computer.
Remember to include holiday food, décor, Christmas Cards, postage, and charitable giving on your list. These can be budget busters if you fail to do so.
Transfer the list to the front of the envelope, allowing room for multiple gifts for immediate family members. Make a column for budget amount and spent amount.
In pencil write down some possible purchases for each person or category.
As you spend use a pen to record the item purchased and the total on the front of your envelope. Place the receipt in the envelope. You will stay much more organized if you will do this at the check-out.
If you are shopping a few days before Christmas use cash or your debit card instead of checks. Some stores have a ten to fourteen day waiting period before giving cash back on a return if the purchase was made by check.
Similarly if you use a credit card to make your purchase, your recipient (if they have asked for your receipt) will only be able to exchange the item in the store because the store will not give them a cash refund; instead you will receive a credit on your credit card. This also applies to check cards that are run as credit. Run your check card as a debit when there is a chance of return.
This simple plan has saved me lots of time and stress over the years. I have a file named Christmas Past where I store these envelopes. They serve as great reminders as to what I gave a particular person each year and prevent the repetition that can occur if I don’t keep track. Try making a Christmas Envelope and let me know how it works for you.