Step-by-step guide to buying Christmas presents for family without stress

Christmas is a wonderful time of year but it can also be very stressful. One of the biggest worries for many people is gift buying, not just because of financial reasons but also because it can be so difficult to buy the right thing. If you're planning to post your presents, you also need to work to a deadline before the last posting day comes around.
There's a lot of things to consider when buying presents for your family, so here's a handy step-by-step guide that will ease you through the process.

Decide who to buy for and how much to spend

The first thing to do is to work just how much you have to spend on Christmas gifts. Try to stick to a reasonable budget and remember you'll still need money to spend on food, drink, decorations and other Christmas expenses, so don't blow all your money on gifts. Next, draw up a list of all the people you want to buy for and be reasonable; you probably won't be able to buy presents for 20 different people.
To give you a rough guide, according to research from Travelogue the average person is planning to buy 12 presents this year for Christmas and will spend around £28.70 on each gift. It's best to write down a rough budget for each person and see how that fits in with your overall present budget. Remember that the budget might differ from person to person, for example you're probably going to spend a lot more on your partner's gift than on your cousin's.

Make a note of what each person likes or wants

Going shopping without having any clue about what you're going to buy is incredibly daunting and difficult. Doing this will mean you'll spend hours pointlessly wandering around and then you're more likely to panic buy something awful the recipient will hate. Think about what they like, what their hobbies are, what they wear and what they would hate to get. If you don't know the answer to any of these questions, perhaps ask another family member or one of their friends to get a good idea of what they want - this is particularly important when buying for other people's children.
On the run-up to Christmas it might also be a good idea to pay attention to any suggestions or hints they may give you. Check to see if they've posted anything they like on their social networking websites, such as a dress they've seen or a book they want. They may also point out things they see when you go shopping with them - you just need to pay attention.

Buy something that they actually want

This may sound obvious but so many people buy their family members gifts because the giver likes them but the actual recipient ended up hating it. Research from shows that £2.1 billion is wasted on unwanted Christmas gifts every year and the top three hated gifts were: clothing, beauty products/toiletries, and trinkets and ornaments. Try to get into the recipient's mindset and think about whether they would want it - even if you really hate it.
Think about if they'll actually use the gift too. Sure, a Christmas jumper is a funny gesture but will they actually ever wear it? If the answer is 'probably not', you might be better off saving your money for a gift that's less funny but will be appreciated. Practical gifts can also be a good idea but you might want to balance it out with a fun or luxury gift too.

Think about what the gift really means

For some people gift buying can go really wrong and it's usually because they haven't thought about it enough. Buying expensive anti-ageing cream for your mum may seem like a thoughtful luxury gift but to her you're simply saying "you look old". This is because you only thought about the present from your point of view and not how the person who's receiving it would see it. To avoid any stressful fights on Christmas day, consider how else the gift could be perceived. Even if you mean well, you could really end up upsetting someone if you go for a risky gift.
As long as you plan ahead and take plenty of time, Christmas gift buying need not be hard. Remember that Christmas is about so much more than just buying presents and spending money, so there's no need to panic buy things for the sake of it. However, there's no shame in having a back up plan; you may want to send them the gift receipt too, just in case they really do want to replace it for something else...

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