Christmas Shopping Tips from a Busy Mom of 5

I've found there are two types of Christmas shoppers - those who get all their shopping done before Thanksgiving and those who do it all at the last minute! I've evolved into a get-it-done early shopper because when you have a family of seven, Christmas shopping can turn into a very expensive full-time job!

Whatever shopping style you subscribe to, it's always helpful to approach your gift list with a plan of attack. I tend to make lists that outline things I know I traditionally buy for my kids, along with their number one wants for the year. From there, I go hunting for the special extras and always look for a deal on the items they really want. For extended family, I've tried to take some guesswork out of gift buying and ask them to send me idea lists, especially for my many nieces. It's so hard to know what exactly they have, want, or need for the holidays. Getting some input takes some of the burden of endless creative gift-giving off my plate. I figure I'm winning as long as they feel happy and blessed.

Another way we've strategized to take some of the stress out of the holiday season is to limit our purchasing for extended family. We have lots of brothers, sisters, nieces, and nephews! We all have big beautiful families. At some point along the way, shopping for everyone got to be way too much. In recent years we've started a family Secret Santa, so we each get one name to buy for, and we have a cap on our spending. For my side of the family, we have decided not to exchange gifts except with just my parents. Coming up with a gift-giving protocol for friends and family can be a great way to cut down on some extra holiday spending.

Here are a few other tips that help me stay organized over the holiday months, and guys, I've already finished all my Christmas shopping!

1. Create a Sharable Amazon List

Everyone wants to know what our kids want or need! My parents, in-laws, cousins, and so on are all looking for suggestions. I also like to keep track of the "must haves" for my kids' Christmas wish lists. Creating an Amazon idea list of things I know my kids will enjoy or need is really helpful. It's easy to share when the family starts asking, and it also is a great place for me to keep track of my own list that I am working off of when I am out Christmas shopping for our people. A great feature of these lists is that others can also take off items they have purchased, so you know what has already been taken care of for your kiddos.

2. Consider Necessities When Shopping

Most of us have homes filled with toys for our kids! While I am grateful that our kids are so well cared for, it can be stressful for them to each receive tons of new toys every year at Christmas. We have limited space, and our older kids rarely even play with their toys anymore. What, then, do we purchase for our children? I like to consider necessities! These can include socks, underwear, PJs, electric toothbrush, toothpaste, grooming items, cups, shoes, coats, or backpacks. Other good ideas include gear or clothing for sports that your kids are in. These extra special cleats, dance shoes, and more add up during the year!

3. Think Outside the Box

I know we all want to see the joy that lights up our kids' faces when they unwrap a gift, but sometimes, they will truly gain the most joy over the course of the year from things that don't fit in a box. Some of the best gifts are experiences! For the past few years, my parents have purchased our kids' annual passes to our local zoo. This is one of their favorite places to go! This gift is such a fun extra for our family that my kids truly enjoy it way more than another Lego set. Other ideas include museum passes, Amusement Park tickets, a weekend family getaway, the opportunity to take a class, music lessons, or the chance to try a new sport!

4. Consider a Subscription Service

Another fun gift for the kids that may spark creativity in your home is subscription services. A really fun educational kit to consider is the Kiwi Crate. They offer all your kids need to create a creative learning project. The crates are customizable by age and by interest. Little Passports similarly offers kits curated by age and interest.

Other subscription services offer year-round excitement and meet other needs too! For your fashion love, KidPik is a clothing subscription; for your little builder, check out Brick Loot; for your baker, there is the Homemade Baker Club. Subscriptions can offer your kiddos a consumable at-home experience they can enjoy each month.

5. Less Is More!

Christmas has truly gotten out of control! I am totally preaching to myself because I already know I've overbought for my kids this year. But every year, I feel convicted to show our kids that we can find joy and be grateful for less rather than expecting more! A fun way to limit your shopping is to choose one book, one clothing item, one game, and one want. You could also set a spending limit for the family or limit the number of gifts each person receives.

6. Give Generously

As a family, it's always special to choose a place to give the money saved by cutting back on the holiday insanity. We've given a portion of our gift budget over the years to our church's Advent offerings, "adopted" a family in need from our community, participated in Operation Christmas Child, and adopted a child in foster care that would not be celebrated. There are so many ways to bless others over the holidays. Make sure to make space in your schedule and budget to model to your kids what it looks like to give generously to holy causes.

I always feel like the holidays are a crazy blur of joy and stress! Each year I wonder why we are doing all of this but then, during our advent readings this week, I was reminded that our souls long for breaks from the ordinary. I listened to my kids describe the anticipation they feel the night before Christmas and the excitement that fills this season for them. Christmas is a sweet break from everyday life, and as an adult, it feels like a chance to capture a little bit of wonder as you see your kids' faces light up on Christmas morning. It's extravagant because God's love for us is marvelously more extravagant than any gift we can come up with. May you be reminded of God's abundant love as you work through your holiday gift-giving list!

Photo credit: ©GettyImages/FTiare

Amanda Idleman is a writer whose passion is to encourage others to live joyfully. She writes devotions for My Daily Bible Verse Devotional and Podcast, Crosswalk Couples Devotional, the Daily Devotional App, she has work published with Her View from Home, on the MOPS Blog, and is a regular contributor for She has most recently published a devotional, Comfort: A 30 Day Devotional Exploring God's Heart of Love for Mommas. You can find out more about Amanda on her Facebook Page or follow her on Instagram.

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