1. Make a List
Write down everyone you plan to buy a gift for, no matter how small the gift may be. Include ideas of what to give each person, along with the maximum amount you’re willing to spend. Don’t forget to list the people who will receive holiday tips, such as your doorman, babysitter, and mail carrier. This will help you manage your holiday budget.
2. Start Early
Don’t wait until after Thanksgiving to start buying holiday gifts. Keep your eyes open all year round for items friends and family would like; it’s often when you’re not looking for something specific that you stumble across the perfect gift for Dad or your best friend. Once December hits, you’ll be glad that you already have some people crossed off your list. Just make sure to keep all your advance gifts in a designated (and hidden, if necessary) spot so that you don’t forget a purchase you made months in advance.
3. Do Online Research
If you’re unsure of which specific item to buy (for example, you want to buy your husband a grill but don’t know what brand or model is best), search for reputable online reviews. Consumerreports.org has hundreds of expert reviews on everything from laptops to baby strollers to breakfast cereals. Or check sites with user reviews and ratings, such as Amazon.com to find out which products have the most positive feedback.
4. Hit up Black Friday
If you’re looking for great deals and aren’t afraid of battling large crowds, the day after Thanksgiving is a shopping must. Some stores even offer advance “Black Friday” sales before Thanksgiving, so it’s worth it to peruse the listings early. Be warned, though—some so-called “Black Friday” deals aren’t any cheaper than the regular sale price, so do some extra research before you camp out in the store parking lot at 2 a.m.
5. Take Advantage of Cyber Monday
A spin-off of Black Friday that debuted in 2005, Cyber Monday is reputedly the biggest online shopping day of the holiday season—and accordingly, many online retailers will offer special discounts on their products. It takes place the Monday after Black Friday. To stay even more in the know during the holidays, sign up to receive emails from your favorite stores to get advance notice about sales and insider-only deals.