How To Organize Your Holiday Shopping

holiday shopping spelled with scrabble tiles

There are facts about holiday shopping that feel inevitable:

  • Holiday Shopping is overwhelming.
  • Keeping track of who you need to buy for (and have already bought for) feels chaotic.
  • Keeping track of what’s wrapped is next to impossible.
  • Finally, If you’re reading this, the majority of holiday shopping falls on you.

I’d love to personally take away the stress of the season for you, but the best I can do is share the system I’ve used for about a decade. It’s worked well to calm my holiday overwhelm and anxiety (of which I have plenty). Think of it as my organizational holiday gift to you.

It’s really quite simple: I organize my holiday shopping into a spreadsheet.

Sounds cheesy and oh-so-90s!  (It may even sound like a lot.) But I promise it’s super simple! (And it works!)

Personally, I use Google Sheets, because then the list is both on my phone and computer.  Throughout the year if my husband mentions a shirt he wants, or I think of a gift for my mom, or my son sees something cool in a store in May, I just jot down the idea on the spreadsheet so I don’t forget. (Because otherwise I totally will). That way, by the time the holidays roll around and I need ideas, I have them ready to go.

To start the list, I make one column for names.

This includes everyone I need to shop for,- from nieces and nephews to friends, bus drivers, and co-workers. In the next column, I put gifts. For the kids, this is usually the ‘toy’ column.

The next column books.

I’m a book gifter. I love this one, simply because when I hear about a book in June, I will 100% not remember it in November. (This is my most helpful column!)

My last column is for ornaments.

This Auntie makes a personalized ornament each year for the kids (13 of them this year!), and I try to have them made in the spring.

I like to have my ideas in the spreadsheet before October and November.

That way (ideally) I can finish my shopping before every December weekend is laden with activities. Once I’ve bought the gift, I fill in the box with bright red. Come December, once it’s wrapped I black it out completely. This method highlights what I still need to get and helps me to remember what still needs to be wrapped. If it’s a gift my husband is buying  I mark it in light blue – that way I know we’re on the same page. Once he’s finally wrapped them (usually about two days before Christmas) I fill them in black.

This is one way I’ve found of organizing during a crazy season that works for me. But there are plenty of other methods out there! One more recently shown to me is an app called GiftList, which helps you organize your gift lists, as well as view the wishlists of friends and family. I have friends who use the notes app on their phones and others who prefer Trello lists. Whichever way you find to best help you organize, I wish you a stress-free holiday shopping season!


What’s your preferred approach to organizing your holiday shopping list? Take a minute and let us know!



  1. Last year was the first time I ever used an electronics-based list. I had resisted because I like written lists and schedules, but you truly can’t beat having access on your phone and computer. Thanks, Ashley, for sharing your organizational genius!

  2. I use a notebook. I’ve been using the same book since 2011 so I can see what I bought for people last year. I list out everyone’s names and list what I buy. I keep receipts in an envelope in the book and put a small w next to things once they’re wrapped. I also have a page for my Christmas card list every year

  3. Just a member of her family, leaving a comment to let you all know that I definitely tried to sneak a peak at what her kiddos were getting for Christmas 😂

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