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Christmas is coming, fast. It’s time to panic. After all, you don’t want to relive last Christmas Eve. There you were, at ten to five in the evening, standing in a large department store, with two gifts still to buy and a distinct shortage of cash. It’s the lovely time of the year again; the time for giving and sharing of gifts with family and friends. As much as we want to celebrate and be jolly during this festive season, we want to make sure that we are careful about spending so that we don’t spoil the festive mood.

Here is a rough guide on how to shop for Christmas gifts:

List the people who you are going to buy a Christmas gift for. This is a good place to start as the exercise will help you see the ‘magnitude’ of the shopping you need to do. Here are some of the people who you will probably include in this list:

  • Family.
  • Close friends.
  • Colleagues.
  • Gift exchanges for Christmas parties.

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Ask questions about gifts. The most difficult part of gift shopping is deciding what to purchase for your target recipient. If you ask solid questions throughout the days leading up to your shopping date, you will have a much better idea of what they really want or might appreciate. Remember, just because you like something does not mean they will.

Ask the family or friends of your gift recipient what they have been saying they want for Christmas, or just ask them yourself if you don’t mind ruining the surprise. If you can’t get a hold of what they want, imagine you were him or her and try to think of something else they may want.

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Listening is probably one of the most important parts of the gift-shopping process. You can ask tons of questions, but if you pay no attention to the answers, you’ll never accomplish the goal of getting your friends and family the gifts that they want or need.

Write it down so you’ll remember the gift. It is always best to go shopping with a list because it keeps you focused on what you need to buy versus what you want to buy. A list also will assist you in remembering precisely what each person wants or needs, which is great for those forgetful moments. Check out recommendations on blogs and other sites to find great gift ideas for friends and family members that you don’t talk to that often or that simply refuse to give you any information that might hint at what they truly want.

Research the items online. One advantage to using the Internet is that there is a wealth of information available. If you are thinking about buying a gift that is electronic or made by many different manufacturers, it will definitely be to your friend’s or family member’s benefit if you research it first. Read reviews on the products available. You might just save your friend or family member the frustration of getting a bad product for Christmas.

Decide how much you can really afford to spend for each gift. Total the prices for all the gifts you have listed and that’ll be your budget. If you have a few possible items listed for one person, use the price of the most expensive item to calculating the budget. You want to make sure you are prepared for the worst case scenario. Now, take 10% off that figure for extras, like wrapping paper, ribbon, bows, tags etc. Then, divide the sum remaining by the number of people you will probably buy gifts for. Redistribute the money, so that you allocate more to close friends and relatives and less to distant ones. You now have a rough budget. Keep within your budget plan on what you’re going to buy and shop carefully with a tight grip. Proper planning is most important for shopping and saving money.

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For each actual purchase that you make, update your budget with the actual money spent. If you have burst your budget on some items, then you’ll have to lower the spending on other items to make up for the differences. Likewise, if you make some savings on certain items, then you’ll have more slack to play with on other items. Keep doing this for the entire shopping list and you will be able to constantly track your actual spending against your budget. This is vitally important to help you keep within your shopping budget. Decide a few days ahead for products that you need to buy; look for the best merchants and deals on Internet. Remember that the thought behind the gift is more important than the price tag. If you have a very limited budget, it may be nice to make a gift.

Shop early to avoid crowds at department stores. Black Friday has tons of great deals at many stores, and that day marks the beginning of the busy season at malls and electronics stores. Shop online to avoid going to stores completely. Many sites offer free shipping or have other seasonal sales available only online. Re-gifting is always a possibility. If you have an unopened, perfectly fine item that your recipient may enjoy, wrap it up to save a few dollars. If you chose to re-gift something, make sure you do not re-gift to the person who gave it to you in the first place. If the item is too expensive for your budget, try to look for a similar gift which would be cheaper or plan to buy something different. Search online with websites to get an idea how much you should be spending and possibly the best place to purchase a particular item. If you decide to buy from a website such, find out if the item is used. If you know the recipient does not mind or would prefer a used item, buy it if the price it right. Otherwise, you may want to keep looking so your recipient is not disappointed.

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