Holiday shopping brings out the best and worst in most people. There are those (like my sister-in-law) who are overly efficient. They’re organized and determined. They collect Christmas lists months in advance and complete their shopping before Thanksgiving.

Then you have the counterpart. Those people who are scrambling either online or at the department stores the week before Christmas, or even on Christmas Eve!

Strategic Planning

I believe I fall somewhere in the middle. My issue with buying my son’s holiday gifts too far in advance is that he changes his mind about 1,000 times before December 25 actually rolls around. What was cool yesterday is no longer cool today. And today’s hot item will be outdated by next week. I have to be systematic and calculated about what I purchase and when.

My son is also a December baby, so once Thanksgiving is in the rearview, I know his birthday is just around the corner. This is when I divide and conquer.

I sort out what gifts are for his birthday and which will wait for Christmas. I’ve found it helpful to purchase something for his birthday that requires accessories or additional parts because that gives family and friends awesome gifts ideas for Christmas. This year’s purchase was a Nintendo 3DS. He’ll be getting quite a few games for Christmas, along with some Gamestop gift cards.

A Whole New World

If you’re the mother of all boys or all girls, buying for the opposite sex can be quite a challenge. Having only one son but all female nieces, you’ll likely find me wondering the aisles at Justice or Toys R Us – surrounded by Shopkins, Num Noms, and Hatchimals, not knowing which way to turn.

Fellow shoppers must see the confused look on my face, as there’s usually someone nearby willing to educate me on twin Hatchimals and Baby Alive. My older niece is a bit easier to shop for. I remember what it was like to be 12. I wanted a phone, lip gloss, and to be 16.

I don’t dare purchase her clothes myself. It’s pretty much a guarantee that I’ll get it “all wrong.” So instead a gift card to her favorite clothing store along with some tinted chapstick, hand sanitizer to hang from her backpack, a compact mirror, and fake nails are a safe bet.

Need tips on buying games for the Xbox One? Or sports jerseys? Then I’m your girl!

Not Just a Kid’s Game

Some families, mine included, opt not to exchange gifts among adults. Once everyone has children and the broods just keep getting bigger, so does the budget. It’s difficult to purchase quality gifts for the kids and purchase for all the adults as well.

There are, however, a few exceptions.

The Host/Hostess Gift

If you’re attending a holiday party at someone’s house, it’s always nice and courteous to bring a “thank you” or “housewarming” gift. This could be anything from a bottle of wine, after dinner liquor, or cheese and meat basket to a candle, decoration, or ornament for their tree. A small gesture to say “thanks for having me” will leave a lasting impression on the host or hostess.

The Parents

And speaking of lasting impressions, if you’re in a new or relatively established romantic relationship, it’s always nice to buy a little something for the parents of your significant other – especially the mother!

As we know, some men aren’t overly helpful with gift giving ideas, so you may be left to your own devices when it comes to generating ideas. Next time you’re over the house, take note of the perfume she wears, her st‌yle of art on the walls, or even the colors in her bedroom or bathroom. Use these small details to come up with a thoughtful and memorable gift. Thoughtful doesn’t have to mean expensive. The old adage “it’s the thought that counts” is often true!

The Men

Gift giving for men can be tough, whether they’re your husband, dad, brother, or boyfriend, men can be hard to read. As my son gets older he’s even becoming more difficult to shop for!

His st‌yle is unique, which makes buying clothes tricky. He doesn’t want “baby” toys, but he’s too young for the electronics he thinks he’s getting. So where’s the middle ground?

My son is 7, so I’m willing to purchase him a tablet for games, maybe an iPod for music, and a gaming system. He’s at the age where he’s ready to transform his room from Avengers to sports cars, so posters and new bedding will make this year’s list.

But what about for the bigger boys in your life? It’s not always easy to find cool stuff for guys or to know exactly what “cool” means. Some safe bets are gift cards, razors, and tech gear. Even the biggest boys are still kids at heart and they’ll love any type of neat or fascinating gadget you can find.

Keep It Simple

I’m a big list maker, so my greatest piece of advice for keeping your sanity during the chaos that is holiday shopping is to stay focused. Sit down and make a list of the people you need to shop for along with one or two gift ideas. It never hurts to include a price next to each item to keep your budget on target.

Try not to get distracted or change your mind too often, this can lead to spending more than you intended and swapping out a gift that the intended receiver may have really enjoyed.

By doing a little prep work and keeping your wits about you, this shopping season might just be the smoothest one yet!

Featured Photo Courtesy: Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash