Do you look forward to Christmas and birthday shopping but have been increasingly confused or overwhelmed with the whole process – especially if you’re doing it large-family style?  Wondering how you can shop for just the right items for each person while not overspending the budget, purchase items the kids need but balance that with a special items they would really like to receive, not forget any items or any people, remember what’s from mom and dad and what’s from grandma and grandpa, and keep it all straight in your head over the course of several weeks or months without making any expensive mistakes?  And then, remember accurately when you go to do the wrapping which gifts were for whom?  Larger families out there know what I mean! *smile* Let me offer some help…

And to double my confusion, my parents love for me to shop for our family for them – which is so fun for me!  *laugh*  But, it does double what I need to keep track of!  Their envelope of cash and ours, how much is budgeted for each of the 11 people in our family both from us and from my parents, and how much has been spent on each person already as I continue to shop over the course of 3 months (October through December).  I also need to remember what each person’s gift requests are as I’m shopping.  And, when I later look over that beautiful pile of gifted blessings to be wrapped on Christmas Eve…which items were for which person again??  Yikes!  Well once we had added our 9th baby, including our 7th winter birthday to shop for simultaneously with Christmas, I needed a plan to simplify this whole process and keep it orderly. I’ll share with you:

Christmas (and birthday) Shopping Chart – and how it saved my sanity. *smile*

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Several years ago I discovered that after “Black Friday” shopping (in the United States this is the Friday after Thanksgiving), most of the merchandise that I had in mind for gifts has been sold out, not to be replaced until about the week before Christmas.  This does not then leave enough time for me to do all of the shopping that I needed to, plus I can’t stand that time pressure and the drain it puts on our family having me gone a lot.  “I’m sorry you’re crying, baby, because you’ve not known where I’ve been for an entire week, but you’ll be glad that I took that time…next week.”  *laugh*  No – not so much for me.

Online purchasing, which I do a lot of due to living in a smaller town and due to convenience, was the worst at running out of stock of merchandise.  So I decided, that in order to have the full selection of gift items I’m looking for, to make sure the stores have those items in stock, and that they’ll be able to arrive before Birthdays and Christmas, I need to get all of my Christmas and birthday shopping done before Thanksgiving (mid-November).  Note to self.  I have loved this decision ever since!  All color or size selections are in stock, there’s lots of variety to select from, I can be done way in advance with my shopping having purchased the exact items I desired for each person, there’s plenty of time for online purchases to arrive on time, and there are no shopping rush lines and parking problems that waste my time!  *cheer!*  And the possibility of getting items on sale close to Christmas time is no temptation for me, because if I wait for the sales I also risk not getting the items I’m looking for because they’re not the right size or color, or someone else has bought them all up before I could get there and now I have to come up with more ideas.  No thank you.  *smile* This little mama does not like pressure or disappointment when it’s avoidable.

I have also learned, after several years of making this mistake, that shopping for our January child’s birthday is difficult for the same reasons – stores are not restocked after the Christmas rush.  So I shop for and purchase birthday gifts for our October and November birthdays, December, and January, all before Thanksgiving.
Here is what I needed to find a way to keep track of:
  • Christmas gift ideas & purchases for each of the 11 people in our family within a modest budget, from Bob and I.  We have separate budgeted amounts for each Bob and I, for each of our children.
  • Christmas gift ideas & purchases for each of our 9 children from Grandpa and Grandma.
  • Birthday gift ideas & purchases from Bob and I for 7 of our winter birthdays.
  • Birthday gift ideas & purchases from Grandpa and Grandma for our 7 winter birthdays.
  • All of the budgeted amounts of money for each of those areas, for each person; how much has been spent already over the course of my 3 shopping months and how much is left to be spent; and which items then at home are for which person.  When each person’s birthday arrives I need to not go to the gift pile and try to remember what was for whom, but simply go to my chart and look at which items I need to pull out to wrap – and without having forgotten any items purchased for that person and without accidentally giving away someone else’s gift!

So!  In my chart, each person in our family has their own row of information.  Here are all 4 pages of my chart in order:   (click on images to enlarge, or you may download a FREE copy of my template from DropBox.)


Here are the boxes in the rows explained from left to right:

Box #1 – All of the gift ideas / requests that I have for that person, for Christmas or birthday.
Box #2 – The budgeted amount for that person for Christmas, from mommy and daddy, and the purchases I have made for that person as I shop.
* I also write in parentheses beside each item I’ve purchased (through out the chart) how much each item cost including tax, shipping and handling where appropriate, so I’ll know how much I’ve spent of their allotted amount.
* Having this record for each person also helps me when I look at a mound of Christmas and birthday gift items in our closet to remember which items are for whom.
* I cross off items from each person’s idea list as I purchase those items and record them in the designated box.
Box #3 -The budgeted amount for that person for Christmas, from grandpa and grandma, the purchases made, and the how much each item cost.
Box #4 – The budgeted amount for that person for their birthday (for those who have winter birthdays), from mommy & daddy, purchases made, and how much each item cost.
Box #5 – The budgeted amount for that person for their birthday, from grandpa and grandma, purchases made, and how much each item cost.
Whenever one of the boxes in the chart is complete, meaning when I’ve purchased items for that person to equal the amount set aside for them, then I put a slash mark through the entire box to mark it completed.  Like checking off a “to-do list”.  *smile*  (If you know me, this makes me very happy!)  This way I can see at-a-glance which people are taken care of for which event, and see easily which ones I’m still working on.  And I keep this chart in my purse so that when I’m out doing the weekly shopping, I can review the ideas I have for each person, and review how much money is set aside for them before making a purchase.  Or, if I see a new idea for someone while I’m out shopping I can think through that person’s “plan” and modify it if I desire to.  For example, maybe deciding not to buy ideas ‘A’ and ‘B’ on the chart, but to rather just purchase new idea ‘C’ which I’ve just discovered instead while still not exceeding the budgeted amount.

Not everyone has all five boxes in their row because not everyone has a winter birthday.  And grandma and grandpa just do gifts for their total 17 grandchildren at this time, so Bob and I do not need boxes to record gifts from them to us (but my mom always purchases something small for each of her children and in-lawed children on her own).  Our extended family has gotten large enough, and the economy bad enough here in the United States, that our whole family has for now stopped doing a gift exchange with everyone including adults, and limited it to just the children’s gifts from grandma and grandpa.  Our whole family loves our gathering times, sharing meals together, wonderful fellowship – we just don’t do a massive gift exchange that would stress everyone out financially.  This has been a good plan for our whole family.

So with a chart there is more peace in the blessing of purchasing gifts.  Now I have all the necessary information recorded clearly, accurately and thoroughly, and any question I may have while I’m out shopping I can review on the chart, enabling me to make the very best decisions for everyone without financial and time-wasting mistakes.  My husband also has great peace knowing that I’m able to stay within the budgeted amount and not over spend, which blesses him very much (not that I have an overspending problem, but getting confused can be costly both for finances and time).  I don’t have to squeeze my brain and try to recall anything regarding the winter gifts.  *smile*  *Aaah*  *wink*  Merry Christmas indeed.

Maybe you also have ideas for how to keep track of your family’s holidays!  We’d all love to hear about them.  *smile*
If you would like to have any of my charts, lists, or schedules that I’ve shared you can download those FREE from this link.
Blessings on your Christmas and winter birthdays!

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