Use this Christmas Planner to plan, strategize, organize and stay on budget with your Christmas Gift List this year!
Let’s talk Christmas Planners and budgeting! The Holidays are so much fun, but if you are the one who ends up in charge of most everything they can also be incredibly stressful. Having a solid Christmas plan, including a Christmas budget and gifting strategies can make a huge difference on your Christmas prep and stress level.
I’m here to help with printables, tips and ideas to get you ready for Christmas. You are going to rock this Christmas season! By planning ahead, creating a gifting strategy, making and sticking to a budget, and choosing amazing gift ideas that people love to receive, you’ll be sailing into December with your list checked off and a smile on your face.
Create a Master Christmas Gift List
The first task we need to complete is to create a Master Gift List. I know it sounds too simple to be helpful but you’ll be surprised at what a master gift list will reveal. Don’t take too much time, this is like a brain dump… write down everyone’s name that you need to get a gift for this holiday season.
To make it easier (and cuter 😉 I created a set of downloadable Christmas Planner for Gifts you can purchase on Etsy. Use code GIFTY to get $1 off your purchase!
Let’s talk about people who are typically on gift lists:
- Family: Children, spouse, parents, grandparents, in-laws, siblings, nieces, nephews. Write down each person’s name, (not just a general “cousin” category).
- Friends/Neighbors: If you usually exchange Christmas gifts with your friends (or want to start a new tradition!) add them to the list. Neighbor gifts are also a fun tradition!
- Work Colleagues: Think about co-workers, your boss (if gifting happens at your workplace).
- School/Church Teachers and Coaches: If you have children, do you give Christmas gifts to your kids’ teachers? Add them to the list! Does your team do a coach gift you need to pitch in on? Add it to the list!
- Events: Do you need a gift for a white elephant party? An office gift exchange? Make sure and add this to your list.
- Sibling Gifts for your kids: If you have young kids, you might want to add sibling gifts to your master list. What I mean by this is a gift from your son to your daughter (and vice versa) to put under the Christmast tree.
- Stockings: This is a Christmas gift area that often gets overlooked or forgotten until the last minute. Being mindfull of stocking stuffers will help you grab great deals and be ready!
It is super stressful when you realize you need a gift and don’t have it in your budget, so try really hard to think about every nook and cranny on your gift list so you aren’t caught empty-handed this holiday season. Talk to your significant other and/or run your list past a good friend to make sure that you didn’t miss anything.
How to make a Christmas Budget Priority Sheet
Next, we are going to first transfer the names from your Master Gift List onto a new page. I want you to transfer the names to this sheet by budget priority. What I mean is that you put the people on the top of the list who will take a bigger part of your budget and move down to the people/events that you hope to spend less on.
Don’t write any budget amounts next to these names yet! We will get into the nitty gritty of budget planning below, after we talk gifting strategy.
Creating a Christmas Gifting Strategy
Once you’ve created a Christmas budget priority list it is time to think about a gift strategy for each person on your list. What is a gifting strategy? It is strategically choosing a type of gift that will help stretch your Christmas budget farther AND help you give creative and unique gifts that are loved. Why buy a $25 toy for each of your four nieces and nephews when you can gift a creative and FUN family gift basket (that will encourage family time) for $50? Instead of spending $50 on a gift your mother may or may not use, why not plan an experience gift you can enjoy together?
Let’s explore a few different gifting strategies that can help you with your Christmas planning.
–DIY gifts: Do you have a special skill or hobby that could be turned into a gift? You can make a Do It Yourself gift that will (possibly) save you money and definitely be a treasured gift.
One piece of advice I would give is that you shouldn’t load up on too many DIY gifts each season. When I was in the thick of raising little kids, one DIY gift project each season was all I could handle. Otherwise, I felt stressed and angry that I was missing out on all of the holiday fun. You might have the ability to handle more DIY gift projects than me, and that is great. If you plan ahead, you might be able to do a few DIY projects each month spread out over the year and give even more homemade gifts. As you look through your list, think about the skills you have to make special personalized gifts. In the strategy column write DIY next to the names where you think a DIY gift might work.
–Experience Gifts: I wrote a whole post with simple DIY experience gifts that cost little to no money. I also created printable certificates you could use. Sometimes the greatest gift you can give is a gift of your time, whether that is with your kids, your spouse, your friends or other members of your family.
There are also some pretty amazing virtual experiences you can find on Amazon. Check out this post on Everything you need to Know about Amazon Explore Experiences (plus the 35 best experiences to gift!) for more info on this amazing experience gift.
–Whole family gifts: Whether that means a combined gift for my parents, or a big gift basket for a whole family (for example, your brother and sister-in-law and their kids). I realized long ago that it made more sense (and is more fun!) to give a bigger gift basket of family gifts instead of individual gifts. You can read more about why it makes sense to do a Family Gift Exchange (and some super fun ways to do) them at my Family Gift Exchange Post here.
I shared some 29 Unique Gift Baskets for all ages that might give you some inspiration!
–Four Gifts of Christmas: You may have heard of this gifting strategy for kids. It helps cut down on too many gifts by focusing on four specific gifts; something you want, something you need, something to wear and something to read. I’m a mom to five kids, and realized a few years back that we were overloaded on toys each Christmas. We told our kids that we wanted to simplify Christmas and were planning to ask Santa to cut down on his gift giving to the Four Gifts of Christmas. We explained that our family is blessed with so many toys, that Santa would have more resources to spend on other kids who need more. Our kids get gifts from other people, including us, grandparents, aunts and uncles etc), and they were surprisingly okay with us changing our Santa gift requests to the four gifts of Christmas. Now each year they make a Christmas list using this printable Santa letter. Using the Four Gifts of Christmas gifting strategy helps with our budget and helps keep our home from being overwhelmed with stuff.
–Big ticket gifts: Another great gift strategy that cuts down on toy clutter is giving one bigger gift, also known as a “big ticket” gift. You can either give a whole family big ticket gift (think trampoline or waterslide), or an individual big ticket gift along with a few smaller items. Click here to check out some of our family’s favorite big-ticket gifts (and the best ages to purchase them).
Go through your list and think about ways that you can apply these gifting strategies. Write the type of strategy next to their name. You don’t have to commit completely to making a DIY gift or purchasing a group gift, but considering these options will help you as you start thinking about specific gift ideas.
How to Create a Christmas Budget
I know that Christmas budgets aren’t the most fun topic. It is hard not to get caught up in the season of giving, but establishing a budget before you shop is super important because it is easy to get out of hand with Christmas spending. Budgeting now will keep you from stressing out about money during the holiday season.
You have your Christmas Gift Priority List marked up with some different gift strategies, now it is time to make sure your budget and strategies work together, and maybe rework some strategies as needed.
Christmas is notoriously a time of overspending, but taking time now to plan will help to prevent that. Planning out your gifts ahead of time will keep you from impulse buys, and applying a gifting strategy and sticking to a budget will keep you from spending too much money.
How much is spent on Christmas each year?
If this is your first time creating a Christmas gift budget, you might not know what number to start with. One option is to look back on your spending from last year to give you a ball park of how much you want to spend this year. If that is difficult or if you spent too much last year, set your Christmas budget amount based on the money you have saved up for gifts. We set a certain amount of our paychecks into a savings account specifically for Christmas gifts.
According to the National Retail Federation, in 2021 Americans spent right around $997 on the holidays with about $648 going towards gifts. Does that mean you need to spend that amount? NO! I always advise people to creatively stay within their budgets. I think most people (besides kids!) would agree that they would rather receive a thoughtful and creative instead of a pricey gift that puts you into debt.
Here are the steps to create your Christmas Budget
- Establish an overall spending amount: It is best if you use money that you have set aside instead of going into debt for Christmas gifts. If you don’t have much money, there are ways to be creative that won’t cost you a thing!
- Using your Christmas Gift Budget Priority List, go through each gift and put an amount you would like to stay within for gifts this year. Write it next to their name and tally and adjust amounts as you go.
For example… I have $500 set aside for gifts this year. If I had three young kids I might set aside $50 each for them and $75 for my spouse (-225=$275 of my budget remaining). Next, I set aside $50 each for my parents (group gift with my siblings) and my mother and father-in-law (group gift with siblings) (-100=$175 remaining). We do a sibling only gift exchange so I just need two $35 gifts (-70=$105 remaining). I need two teacher gifts for my kids (-50=$55 remaining). Neighbor/co-worker gifts will be around $30 leaving $25 for gift wrap and wrapping accessories. (You can read this post on great wrapping paper options if you want some gift wrapping inspiration).
- When you get to the bottom of the list, you should either have $0 left OR have a surplus that you can use as needed.
- Move on to choosing gifts/shopping but KEEP WITHIN YOUR BUDGET!
Now keep your chin up as you work on this. I know this can get a little depressing if you are working with a tight budget. But this is where creativity and perspective come in. The very best presents are not necessarily the most expensive ones. If your budget isn’t stretching, your thoughtful and creative gifting will make up for it! (And if you aren’t feeling very creative please let me help!!).
Choosing the best Christmas Gift Ideas
I looooove spending some quality time thinking about gift ideas. There is something very satisfying about thinking about someone’s needs and wants and finding something that they will love and use!
I wrote a post called “What do I want for Christmas” that has an idea flow chart that might help spark some gift ideas for people on your list as well.
Here are some things to think about as you brainstorm for Christmas Gift Ideas
- Think future…what is coming up for the person you are giving a gift to? Do they have a vacation or trip? A new career? A move? Is there a gift you could get in anticipation of these events?
- Have you heard them mention a hobby or interest? Or is there some hobby or interest that they used to do that you could rekindle? I’m amazed at how often I hear or see people give a little clue about something they are wishing for…you can also check on their social media (personal Pinterest boards can be a font of information!) for more clues.
- Think about your giftee’s needs. Is there something they are struggling with? Is there something you could buy/give that would help take off some of their stresses?
- With kids/tweens/teens: What are their strengths…what do they love to do? Even something little that they’ve shown interest in you can find products that will help them explore that interest while having fun.
Now here are some of my favorite gift ideas (and please follow my Pinterest Board for even MORE great gift ideas!
So what do you do with these gift ideas? I want you to go through your Christmas Gift Planner Brainstorming Sheet and write down the gift ideas you want to give each person that fit within those parameters. If there is more than one that you like, write down both and let the shopping deals you find decide on the winner.
Christmas shopping strategy
My two best tips after two years of delving deep into Black Friday sales are 1) Plan Ahead 2) Don’t panic spend!
The majority of this blog post has been about planning and budgets. Now let’s talk about Christmas gift shopping strategies!
You are in GREAT shape now that you’ve filled out the Christmas Gift Planner. You made a master gift list so that you won’t forget anything, you transferred those names to a budget priority sheet and made a target gift budget for each. You thought about different gifting strategies and brainstormed gift ideas for each person.
Doing this work ahead of time is going to save you money and decrease your holiday stress! A lot of people overspend/get in over their heads because they don’t have a plan and just buy a bunch of things they hope will be liked.
Take some time at the beginning of the holidays to get your ducks in a row and it will go so much more smoothly.
Now about panic spending. This is kind of the goal that every Black Friday advertiser and marketer is going for. Quick, get it at this price! Limited Inventory! Grab things at this percentage off! Never before seen pricing! Lowest Price of the Season! Take a breath. I know this is easier said than done. Black Friday shopping is kind of addicting and exciting.
That is where our last printable comes in…You can grab a Christmas Shopping Notes Printable here. What I want you to do after you’ve narrowed down gift ideas that fit within your budget is add them to this notes page so you can keep track of what deals you find, and where you found them at. If you are on a strict budget (or you want to) you can write every item on your list on this Shopping Notes printable.
Next, the internet is your friend! Go to your favorite three online sites and price out the products. My go-to site (after years of Black Friday shopping) is Amazon. They are incredibly competitive and their Black Friday (and Thursday, and beyond) are always at or below the ones I find at other competitors. Walmart and Target are both offering free shipping around Black Friday as well.
You can also check on sites like BlackFriday.com and see prices at brick and mortar stores if you are willing to brave the crowds.
Have your spreadsheet on hand as Black Friday deals start rolling out…that way you can see if the deal is so good that you need to jump right on it. If the deal isn’t that great, you can probably hang on and see if another deal rolls around (or just grab it and be done.)
Once you’ve purchased your gifts, write them on your Christmas Gift Tracker, which will help you record a rolling budget amount (how much you have left) as well as if you’ve received and wrapped each gift.
I hope this Christmas Gift Planning post will help you