How to buy gifts at Christmas

Nikki ParkinsonLife 18 Comments

Last Sunday, I bumped into an old friend from the Sunshine Coast in the middle of Brisbane’s CBD.

Let’s call her Debbie … because that’s her real name.

She caught me looking down at her arms which were laden with shopping bags.

“Don’t hate me,” she said. “I’ve just finished my Christmas shopping.”

Deb was not going to get any hate from me. Far from it. I salute such preparedness.

It’s not even December and she’d nailed it.

Me? I had sort of started. My own bags that day contained the first of my Christmas gift buying.

I’d made a start.

Truth is, I love gift buying. I love hunting down just the right gift for the people on my list.

I know that not everyone shares my love so in the spirit of the season ahead, I’m sharing my 29 tips for how to buy gifts at Christmas.

I’ve included general gift buying tips as well as specific ones that apply to buying fashion and beauty gifts.

(You might want to print this post out and hand it to the person buying you a gift this Christmas 😉 )

how to buy gifts at Christmas | 29 tips to get it right

1. Start early. I know this is easier said than done. Again, CONGRATS Deb. We are a family that has a number of birthdays around this time of year but even if you make a small start it will create less stress when it comes to the pointy end of the festive season.

2. Make a list. Before you go anywhere near the shops that you make an extensive list of all the people who you need to buy gifts for this year. There may be work colleagues, friends, kids, partners, cousins, aunties, uncles, grandparents, parents … write them all down. Don’t forget to check it twice.

3. Make a budget. You know I’m not good with the B word but Christmas spending (not just the gift stuff) can easily get out of hand and leave you with a financial hangover in the New Year. Next to each name on that list, make a note of roughly the amount of money you’re prepared to spend on that person’s gift. So for me, for each of our kids we might agree to spend at total of $200; for a niece or nephew it may be $30. We don’t always stick rigidly to the budget but this does provide a framework for us to work within.

4. If you’re a salary earner, work out how many more pays you have until Christmas. This is tied into the budget as you will probably want to spread the spending across those number of pay cycles. Looking at it on paper will help you work out before you start shopping whether you have the funds you’ve allocated to each gift.

5. Let your fingers do the walking. You can compare prices and make choices online in minutes. You can then decide if you’d like to then look at the item in store or add to cart and buy there and then. Check delivery costs and timing.

6. A shopping centre reccie is also a good idea. I find online shopping so easy that I can forget that there is a big, wide bricks and mortar shopping world out there. Taking a walk through your nearest centre, checking window displays and merchandising can really help you with ideas.

7. Browse local independent retailers. I’m a big fan of shopping and supporting fabulous lifestyle stores that make it so, so easy to find gifts that are a little different. The merchandising alone makes me want to buy ALL THE THINGS. The store owners know their customer and buy accordingly. Service will often include gift wrapping too. That’s a win.

8. Independent retailers are also found online. Support them. So many of Styling You’s advertisers are small businesses. Shopping with them means you’ll make a direct impact on someone’s livelihood. That’s a very good thing.

9. Sign up for email or Facebook alerts from your favourite stores. Sales and special offers are no longer reserved for twice a year. Individual stores have special offers, discounts and in-store or online events every week. Play your Christmas shopping cards right and you’ll not pay full retail.

10. Really think about the person for whom you’re buying.  I mean REALLY. Think about that person. What are THEIR obsessions? How do they like to spend their time? In a Secret Santa situation where you may not know the person, stalk them a bit on social media … you’ll soon get the idea.

11. Gift cards or vouchers are very ok. Yes, they are. I’m always lucky to be on the receiving end of at least one gift voucher each Christmas and to me that just extends the excitement, especially if I can use that voucher in the post-Christmas sales. They are particularly good for teenagers who may use it towards buying a more expensive item they’ve been saving for.

how to buy gifts at Christmas | 29 tips to get it right

12. Sometimes it’s the experience that counts. Just like the extended Christmas power of the voucher, a voucher that offers an experience can be a winning gift. Think spa or beauty treatment, night away in a hotel, movie tickets, restaurant voucher, cooking school class … anything that comes with a bit of a treat or pamper factor on the side.

13. Consider the gift that keeps on delivering.  Christmas might be just one day but your gift could keep on delivering for the year. Magazine subscriptions are the obvious ones here but also consider a sampler subscription like Bellabox. Tee up a monthly flower delivery at your recipient’s local florist would be a winner.

14. Consider the gift that keeps on giving.  This can be giving community fair trade gifts, donations to charities or even as an individual or family donating gifts for families or children in need. The Smith Family’s toy and book appeal is a great one to get kids on board with. Or offer tangible help to a family in need through the Vinnies Christmas Appeal.

15. Got a big family to buy for? Why not start a secret Santa? This involves everyone coming to some kind of agreement but I’ve heard and seen how successful this can be. One friend’s immediate and extended family sets a budget of $50 and they have to buy for one other person. This not only helps the budget but means that with $50 the family member is likely to get something substantial. In our family, when the kids came along we stopped buying for the parents (our brothers and sisters) and just concentrated on the kids.

16. Beauty addicts already have a lot of beauty items in their kit – surprise them with a gift pack from one of their favourite brands. This is especially easy at Christmas time as most makeup, skincare and hair companies create value-added gift packs. These packs typically retail at a lower price than if the items inside were sold separately.

17. The no-fuss beauty girl is looking for a beauty gift that will make her life easier. Why not put together a gift of skincare and makeup products that you know save you time but make you feel like you can take on the day? A gift that includes a BB Cream, lip gloss and mascara is a no-fuss combination that works and you’ll be thought of each time the recipient gets her two-minute makeup on each day. Put these items in a cute toiletries bag.

18. Is there one product she just can’t live without? That she raves about ALL THE TIME. Buy her that product. You’ll know it will be used! It might be a perfume or a particular lipstick.

19. Is there is a big-ticket item that’s been on her lust-have list for a very long time? I’m thinking a ghd styling iron or the like. Why not pool resources (family or friends) and make it happen for her. It’s Christmas, after all!

20. Does she prefer her products to be natural, organic and cruelty-free? Buy only those. This might take a bit more research but it will be worth it as your recipient will very much appreciate that you understand this is important to her. Be careful of labels though – the term natural is bandied around a lot – check the ingredients and for any certification.

21. Fragrances are a very personal thing. Know what she already loves and either buy her the same or get advice on an alternative based on those scents from a fragrance specialist. A good department store perfume counter will help you.

22. A beauty lover can never have too many candles or aromatherapy scents in their life. Well, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. I’ve got candles throughout the house as well as diffusers ready to enjoy my favourite aromatherapy blends.

how to buy gifts at Christmas | 29 tips to get it right

23. For fashion gifts, make sure you understand the recipient’s personal style. It may be completely opposite to yours. You need to be ok with that and not try and inflict your style and taste on someone else.

24. Know the person’s size. Don’t guess it. There is nothing worse then opening a beautiful present of a fashion garment, only to find that the giver lovingly thinks you are three sizes smaller than what you are. Look in the person’s wardrobe first.

25. If buying lingerie, getting the size right is even more essential. A man walking into a lingerie store and cupping his hands in the general shape of his partner’s bosies is not going to be helpful in finding lingerie that fits.

26. Find out where they most like to shop for clothes or accessories. You’ll get these clues from their wardrobe too. We are creatures of habit and regularly shop in the same places – places that reflect our personal style.

27. If you know she shops at particular small independent boutiques – online or bricks and mortar – then enlist the help of the store owner/manager or designer to put you on the right track based on her previous purchases.

28. Accessories are the go if you just don’t feel confident in buying a garment without her trying it on. Consider what accessories she’s really in to. Bags? Shoes? Scarves? Jewellery? All of the above? Take cues once again from what’s already in her wardrobe and shop accordingly.

29. Don’t be afraid to strongly hint what might be on your wishlist. I know this post is about giving to others but those others might but be needing a little help with ideas. I’ve never been backward in coming forward in this department … and I’ve never been disappointed. #justsaying

These tips very much apply at any time of year. Embrace them and you’ll replace any stress associated with gift buying with the joy the act is supposed to bring.

So, over to you … what tips for Christmas shopping can you add to this list? Who do you find difficult to buy for?

PS. Styling You book editor Deborah Cook is on the blog tomorrow with great reading gift ideas. Don’t miss it.

Comments 18

  1. I’m very proud to say that I finished all my Christmas shopping mid November 🙂 It’s saved me the stress of worrying about it later and I have some cash to throw around when it gets closer to Christmas if I need to! I’m one of those people that does a lot of their shopping online (bought one thing in store) because you can get some really good deals + most of the time, online is cheaper! xx


  2. I love all your ideas Nikki and cover some of those in our Christmas Workshops too. Start early and with a list ! We have been doing Secret Santa for many years too.

  3. Something I did last year and will definitely be doing this year again was to wait until the sales and stock up on the gift packages of my regular skin care. last year I bought packages of my favorite skin care with full sized moisturizers at a lower price than the normal price of the moisturizers with all the other added extras chucked in. Bargain!!!

    I bought enough for say six months as I was onlyhappy to store for this long?

  4. Starting early, yup! Definitely. I get stressed shopping in the crowd come December. Also online shopping. I love supporting local. And secret santa yes! We started that this year. Hoping it will save me lots of $! 🙂 Thanks for the tips Nikki.

  5. thanks nikki!
    not that many to buy for! … a few gift cards etc!
    i’m finding a 3yr old boy the hardest to buy for!
    helloo do not have a clue!
    I had a ball shopping for his 5yr old sister! … love m:)X

  6. Great tips Nikki I totally agree with all of them! I have done no Christmas shopping this year as yet,unlike my very organised daughter who finished hers at the end of September.I will be doing more gift cards,like you said they are very much appreciated after Christmas and some online shopping this year I’m just not up to braving the busy shops this year,I find my husband the hardest to buy for Xx

  7. Great advice here! I’m not too far off being finished – except for my husband! He is SO hard.
    I too love a beauty treat at Xmas, it’s pretty much my favourite thing. This year, I emailed a few hints to my hubbie, and he can chose which ones. We’ll see how that goes!

  8. Some great ideas here Nikki. With our kids on tight budgets (mortgages etc), they floated the idea this year, for secret Santa with a $100 budget. I have purchased my 1 gift (plus a few little things for the grandchild) and my shopping is done! Now I am free to devote my full attention to the all important menus and the decorating. xx

  9. Ooooh I love buying gifts! We do the Secret Santa at work, my gift is already wrapped and left on the table. For my kids, I give them money plus something to unwrap, because everyone loves having a gift under the tree. I bought my daughter and daughter-inlaw a lovely Lancôme gift set each this year. For my mum, a voucher for her hairdresser, she gets a perm (well, she is 84) and then a few trims. This year for my dad, a stack of good books, and lots of choccies and lollies. One of his favourite childhood memories is climbing to the top of their mango tree with a book and lollies. He is 88. My partner is happy with anything. My granddaughter who is 8 going on 20, clothes and shoes. I am struggling with my grandsons, they are 7, 5 and a bub. Have no ideas for them! Will be fun hunting 🙂

    1. I have one son and six nephews. You can’t go wrong with Lego in the 5-11 age range. Just keep the receipt in case they already have it, but there is new stuff coming out all the time, so it is pretty safe – and they LOVE it.

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