10 tips for smarter holiday shopping and gifting.

At this time of year, it's getting down to crunch time for me in terms of holiday shopping and gifting.  I shop all year long and put things away for family, friends and everyone on my list, but there are always those that get left to the last minute, or things that crop up when the kids find out what their friends want!

As part of the TwitterMoms and Office Depot Blogging program, I am sharing 10 tips for smarter holiday shopping and gifting, but I would love your feedback on what helps you be smarter over the holiday season!

1. Be organized!  This is the big one for me - I could easily fill my entire gifting budget with cute things for the kids and completely neglect hubby and some of the other hard to buy for adults on my list, because shopping for the kids is simple and advertising is everywhere luring me to add just one more 'must have' toy to their stockpile.  I keep a spreadsheet of everyone I need to give a gift to and what I've picked up or plan to get, make or find for them.

2. Think outside the department store - there are great options for gift giving that aren't always traditional, but will make people happy!  I often will include homemade items like soup mix, candles or holiday baking in my gifts for neighbors and friends!

3. Research!!! This is a big one for me - I don't have time to be racing all over the city trying to find the right size and color of something, or to sit in the aisle of Office Depot comparing the various qualities and specs of the great technology, furniture and toys - so I rely on websites like https://www.top30smartgifts.com/ to help me figure out what I want to buy before I leave the house.

4. Make sure you get gift receipts!  One of the best things about the holidays is that most stores will stretch their return policies, but if you are like me and shop year round, gift receipts extend the time stores will accept returns in case all that research I did was in vain and I still bought the square peg for the round hole...

5. Wrap as you go!  I bought all my holiday wrapping paper on 90% clearance last year - as well as a lot of gift wrap that could be used throughout the year - colored foil and such, so I can wrap gifts as I buy them - it keeps little fingers from prying into their gifts and saves that last minute rush to get everything wrapped!

6. Gift Cards are great - my grandmother always poo-poo'ed gift cards as being impersonal, but I know that teachers and other people whom I don't know as well as I might to pick out personal gifts can really use a gift card to someplace like Office Depot, the book store, a restaurant or even the grocery store!  It's often easier to find out where they shop than it is to find out exactly what book they'd like and it makes the gift fit their lifestyle better! 

7. And speaking of that, my almost Teenager wants a credit card for Christmas - so I'm going to get her one - a pre-paid Visa or MC - it's more special than giving cash and she, as a young teen will get a kick out of feeling grown up without the headaches of real credit card ownership - and it also means that she can shop online on her own ... I know she wants Wii credits and I don't necessarily want to use my credit card for that...

8. Don't forget to menu plan and shop early for great deals on your meals - this is a great time to coupon and stock up on baking supplies, holiday meal trimmings and the like - by knowing exactly what you need, you can get everything and have less stress as you create your holiday meals!

9. Book your travel early!  I know it's not exactly shopping or gifting, but knowing how you and your gifts are getting to family and friends is important!  Check with your airlines too - many are charging for second bags, so it may be more economical to ship your gifts to your destination, or take advantage of free shipping offers to get your gifts to their destination rather than picking them up at home and trying to pack them yourselves!

10.  Most importantly, remember that the holidays really aren't all about the gifts - there is more to the season than new IPods and Digital Cameras or the 'right' toy.  The holidays are about celebrating your religion, your family, your friends and/or your traditions and the gifts you share should add to that, not overshadow it!

These are 10 of my tips for holiday shopping and gifting, but there are as many ways to shop and gift as there are people - my husband is a last minute shopper - he'll be out December 23rd or 24th with all the other men... luckily he has fewer people on his list than I have on mine, but it's part of his holiday tradition, so we don't mess with it!

What are your shopping and gifting traditions and suggestions?  Please share them in the comments or join the discussion at http://www.twittermoms.com/forum/topics/share-ten-smart-holiday!

“I wrote this blog post while participating in the TwitterMoms and Office Depot blogging program, making me eligible to get a $40 Office Depot gift card. For more information on how you can participate, click here.”