Makin' a list and checkin' it twice....

For most of you, the Holiday season comes with a lot of anxiety. For me, it's fun, exciting and mostly enjoyable. Usually the shopping alone will do you in, even for the most laid back person.

Not to scare you, but there are 63 days until Christmas. But in all actuality, there are 9 shopping weekends. This is not to scare you, but to just make you aware that the time is looming over us. I know that you are feeling the pressure. How could you not with retailers already decorating and stocking the shelves with tinsle and greenery. I want you to take a deep breath and approach this calmly.

I'm not sure how most of you plan for gifts? I am a budgeter, through and through for all things, including gifts. ALL gifts. We have a set amount in mind for every occassion. We had to! When we first got married, I was barely working part time and we had to get creative. We weren't the only ones getting married, having babies, celebrating graduations, birthdays, etc. We had to come up with a strategy. At first it was hard. We thought we should give a "matching" gift of one received. You know that kind. Same in value or importance. We realized very quickly that we couldn't keep up with that and would have to come up with another plan. We would have thrown ourselves in major debt trying to keep up with the Jones'. We came up with our own plan, budget and system for gift giving. It helps that I am kind of crafty and can make a very personal gift with spending very little money. Remember, it really is the thought that counts.

Even though I rarely leave the gift buying up to the Hubby (with the exception of a few gift cards), he is well aware of our limits/budget for each occassion. Gradually, over the years, the budget has increased and we feel more comfortable in our spending, but it was quite comical in the early years trying to get the most bang for our buck.

With all this said, I think the first step should be making a list - would you expect any less from me? A very detailed list. List everyone you can possibly think of that you would like to give something to or do something for. Don't forget your mail carier, sanitation workers (trash), newspaper person, hairdressers, teachers, busdrivers, etc. These will add to your budget quickly and cause some discomfort if not prepared. Another idea that we have adopted is only buying for the kids with our friends and drawing names with my husband's family ("kids" only with a set limit). We decided that this was easier and saves money. So, now, you need to set a limit for each person on your list. Ours is pretty basic. Once you have a limit in mind, you can start filling in ideas for each person.

Remember that once you have an idea in mind for a gift and price range, you're shopping will be easier. This also helps with just regular everyday shopping. I see things all the time that are on sale, have a coupon, or websites that offer free shipping, etc for items on my list that I utilize throughout the year so I save more money. Also, realize that if you planned on spending $50 on someone but find the item(s) you were looking for at a cheaper price, don't feel obligated to get more stuff just to spend the entire amount you budgeted. This is why it is called a limit. You try not to go over it, but if you come in under, great! You aren't getting any less than you had wanted to, so be excited with your savings!

I take advantage of deals throughout the year with places I use the most like Snapfish, Amazon, Shutterfly, and Vista Print. Most of the photo storage/sharing websites offer great deals on free shipping, free prints, stationary, and discounted photo books, etc. that you can take advantage of and make wonderful gifts for parents and grandparents. Also consider magazine subscriptions, books and games when they are on sale or offered with a buy one/get one deal. I love those because I can get one for me (or if I'm in the giving mood, I give away the other).

I'm also a fond believer in simple! Whether this be a handmade craft, store bought item with an extra personal touch or embellishment, a group of framed photos (these are very great gifts for the family), or food items. I don't bake but still love to make foodie items just as a simple and small token! Remember last year?

Check out Money Saving Mom to get great websites that offer coupon codes, free shipping and more.

Don't be scared! Get out there and start planning! Good luck!