How I Simplify Christmas with Gift & Wish Lists

posted by Andrea | 10/9/2012

Now that it’s October, I feel like I can {and should} start thinking and planning for Christmas — specifically Christmas gifts.

Obviously, I know that gifts aren’t the point of Christmas, but they sure are fun!  So since gift-buying can be stressful, and since Dave and my immediate families also have SIX birthdays between Thanksgiving and New Years, I like to start early.

This past weekend, I got out my pen and paper and jotted down the list of people we’ll be buying gifts for this year (Christmas and Birthday). I’ll keep this list with me from now until Christmas and any time I think of a gift idea (or any time I hear someone mention a gift idea) I’ll write it down.

I already have a few ideas written down, and once my list starts to grow, I’ll be able to keep my eye out for good deals on those specific items. My goal is always to get most of my shopping finished before Thanksgiving – but we’ll see how that goes now that I have Nora around!

However, along with my “Gift List” for others, I also created a “Wish List” for myself, Dave and Nora. Our Wish List is basically just another piece of paper where I list out different things we might want for Christmas (or for Nora and Dave’s birthdays.)

I don’t know about you, but I’ll often think “It would be so nice to have_________” or “I sure wish I had __________” but if I don’t write it down, I can’t remember these ideas when our families ask what I’d like for Christmas.  Then, two weeks after Christmas, I’ll remember what I wanted, and by that time it’s too late!

So now, I keep a list, and any time I think of something I’d like {even if I don’t necessarily need it} I simply add it to my list. I’m also adding things for Nora and Dave as I think of them.

I’ve been making Gift Lists and Wish Lists for several years now, and they have really helped me to simplify this part of the holiday season.

How do you prepare for holiday shopping?

Do you make gift lists? Do you make wish lists? Have you started {or even finished} your shopping yet?

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22 comments

  1. Stel

    10/09/2012

    I LOVE this idea and also try to implement. It makes it so much easier to buy and ensure that people actually like the gift they’re getting. It’s very noble to say “it’s not about the gifts’, but one does get gifts that just sits, unwanted or unused in a cupboard, a waste somebody else’s money. I do ask people want they would like, from Christmas to the 5yr old’s birthday that we’re attending on Saturday.

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  2. Shari

    10/09/2012

    Yup, all year long I put gift ideas & wish lists into my iPhone in the Notes app. Then I use a Gifts app closer to the holidays to set budgets & keep track of what I’ve bought for each person. I love always having these lists at my fingertips!

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    Leanne Reply:

    Shari – which app do you use? I’ve been looking for a decent list/gift wish app for awhile.
    Thanks!
    Leanne

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    Shari Reply:

    I used Christmas Gifts List Free (
    https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/christmas-gifts-list-free/id405436867?mt=8), & I liked it. I’ll probably see if anything better comes out before the holidays too :)

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  3. Shannon

    10/09/2012

    Amazon.com has what you do on paper… electronically. I keep a running list year-round on my Amazon Wish List. It has been so great. It reminds me of things like you said that I just think would be fun to have. That way when my family asks what I want for my birthday or Christmas I can just send them the list. I’m not put on the spot and the gift-giver doesn’t disappoint! And they have added a feature that lets you put things on there that you might not find online. For example, I want an AUX plug for my car but I don’t even know where to begin to look for one so I just added it as something I wanted without giving specifics. You can also add notes about the wished for items, give them priorities, and add from almost any website (not just Amazon).

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    Amber Reply:

    I use the Amazon wish lists, also. It’s especially useful because our family lives anywhere from 1-5 yours from us, so we can just email links to the lists, especially for the kids birthdays & Christmas, & we love the notes feature (e.g., “Big boy loves cars”, or “Big Boy loves X, but only has the Y one.” Then you are giving generic ideas, even if they find a better deal elsewhere & you minimize getting more of what you have.

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  4. Linda

    10/09/2012

    Years ago I found a journal at the dollar store with a Christmas-y cover and I use that to keep track of Christmas gifts I give and make for others. Since I have it all in the book, I can look back and see what I’ve made in the past for them, so I don’t duplicate. There have been times when I’ve seen wall hanging kits and thought they were great, and bought enough to make for everyone, but only actually have the time to get one completed before Christmas. This way I know which sister received hers and which one needs one. It’s available all year to keep track of ideas, then I mark down what I actually gave to all the family members. For my husband, my daughter, and myself, we each have a document on the main menu of our computer with our wish lists and we add to them when something catches our eye. That way they’re available for anyone to look at to get ideas.

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  5. Katie

    10/09/2012

    I took your advice about writing down gift ideas. Last February we had a family dinner and I brought homemade salad dressing in one of those salad dressing shaker containers. My sister-in-law commented on how she wished she had one so she could make her own salad dressing. I jotted that down in my planner for the month of August (when her birthday is). I bought her one for her birthday and when she opened it she said, “You remembered!” I never would have if I hadn’t written it down! Thanks for the advice!

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  6. Joye

    10/09/2012

    You can’t beat the List Master app for making any kind of personalized list. That’s where I keep my gift ideas list and Christmas gifts list. I estimate prices and update with the actual price after I buy the gift, so I keep track of my running total. And I can save the lists so I remember what I bought for someone in past years!

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  7. Ginger

    10/09/2012

    We have a checking account specifically for gifts. We make a monthly transfer, so when Christmas rolls around, we’re financially ready. It helps a ton.
    My sister and I exchange ornaments for our kids each year. (We buy an ornament for each of her kids, and she does the same for our kids.) Saves us both gobs of money and the kids remember what we got them each year since the ornaments are all dated and signed by us.

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  8. Victoria

    10/09/2012

    I have started looking at that already too. I have an excel document with names, ideas, what is already purchased and goal amount to spend. I also try to put down how much I spent. Then the next year, I re-save it by year, and adjust as needed. By saving last years, I can still look back at what we got/ how much we spent to better plan on a budget. I actually find it fun to do. This year we have the iPhones so, using the notes pad to write down ideas as I think of them, it so nice. I’ll still have my master excel list though!

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    Neal Reply:

    We do just about the same thing! It makes me feel organized and when I feel like I’m not getting things done, I can just pull up the list and see it in-a-glance. I started doing it about 4 years ago and each year I start a new page with a column of what we gave each person last year, another column of ideas, and yet another column of what we actually got. It’s so nice to be able to continue a series of gifts or add to a collection for someone, even just an accessory for a past gift seems to to be appreciated for its thoughtfulness and consideration.
    This year, I am moving the list to Google Drive (works on desktop, Android, and iOS) as it has spreadsheets and lives in the cloud so I will have the info synced everywhere. You can even allow another person to access the list from their device. That way, you can share in shopping and jotting down ideas.
    Oh, and THANK YOU for confirming that I’m not crazy for turning the holiday shopping into a business form. :)

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    Joye Reply:

    Oh, good idea to keep track to add to a series/collection. And good idea about the cloud- I like the idea of letting others view the list. That way , I can put gift ideas for ME on there!
    Yes, I often get called a fun-sucker because of my lists, but I love them anyways!

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    Neal Reply:

    I was inspired, by this post and the comments yesterday, to actually move my excel sheets to Google Docs. I reworked my format for this year to have everyone’s names and groups of columns for items: actually purchased, things to find or make, their wishes, and my ideas. I was able to rework and make a clearer spreadsheet because I don’t have to make it printable and carry over the “gifts given last year.” I now have previous years at hand on separate sheets in the document but still easily accessed. Now I’m energized to get some things crossed off the list and only have to worry about whatever last minute things come up.

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    Victoria Reply:

    oh, what a great idea for updating this year as we know have the ipad/iphones!! won’t have to make time to sit down at the desk top to update the list! Thanks! Going to have to try and figure that out now!

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  9. Jamie

    10/09/2012

    My husband and I started gift lists and wish lists several years ago. It was actually my husband’s idea because he was tired of returning gifts that I didn’t like or were the wrong size, color, etc. He now even keeps his list on the computer and attaches links of the exact item so I can see what it looks like. We always include a variety of items in different price ranges. We still don’t know what the other is getting and usually throw in an additional something that the person didn’t ask for but we know they would love. We both have birthdays at the end of September so we usually make it a birthday/Christmas list. :) It has worked very well for us.

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  10. Stacy

    10/09/2012

    I am a Christmas planning geek. I have a master list and I start shopping the day after Christmas.I have a plastic tub where I collect gifts that are marked down really low. I make a note on my phone of things to look for and buy when they are on sale all year long. For my husband and kids I keep an ongoing list and buy before the end of November. My friends laugh, but it’s a great way to save money and frustration while everyone else is running around in a panic. I also keep an amazon wish list called gifts for other kids and gifts for people, where I keep gift ideas for my best friends kids and family and friends.

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  11. Carrie

    10/09/2012

    I keep a gift idea list in the back of my spiral notebook that I use for my weekly grocery shopping list. It is always with me when I make my list while looking at ads and also with me in the store so when I see something in particular I just jot down the idea or purchase it. Shh…….my sons haven’t figured that out yet:)
    I also keep a list of sizes in this same notebook along with a list of video games, board games or books we already own.

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  12. Julie

    10/09/2012

    I have a wish list on Amazon still, I think…but really since I like so many different things I have found it easier to just have a Pinterest board that is my wish list…and I have made a wish board for my little guy and now the baby on the way as well.

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  13. Julie

    10/09/2012

    Oh, and as for list of what I want to or have gotten FOR people as gifts, I am a bit more old-school. I just write it in the back pages of my moleskin notebook!!

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  14. Victoria@Snailpacetransformations.com

    10/10/2012

    I had a horrible dream last night. In it I had forgotten all about Christmas until hours before the big day. I was forced to wrap up gifts the kids already owned! So perhaps I really should sit down this week and write out a list, because apparently its on my mind!

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  15. Charon Benton

    10/12/2012

    I have recently discovered the Amazon Wish List feature and my list is growing and growing! I keep a folder with my “who to buy for” list in it (and it goes all the way back to 2002) and jot things down in it as I think of gift ideas. I’m ALMOST done Christmas shopping!

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