Now that the holiday season has officially set in, holiday shopping will reach an all-time high. If you’re anything like me, you know how easy it is to get sucked into the vortex of holiday sales, specials and unbeatable offers. But if you’ve been following along on Instagram and my blog, you also know that I’ve learned how to curb my holiday shopping habits and prevent clutter from invading my home and the homes of the people I care about most. It pays to shop smart over the holidays and even throughout the year.

Here are 4 essential holiday shopping tips that will help you save money and avoid collecting clutter this holiday season:

Tip 1–Don’t let advertising tell you what to buy

Arm yourself with a list and make sure to check it twice. Decide in advance what to buy and for whom. You can take this tip a step further by pinpointing which stores you will visit during holiday shopping season. Make a list, set a budget and shop from your list.

I also recommend drilling down into your budget person by person. Given your overall budget, determine the price point range for each person on your list and notate it next to that person’s name. For example, you might spend $10 to $25 more on gifts for immediate family members, your partner or special friends. For extended family and friends, you might decide on a $20 maximum gift spend across the board. This will make it much easier (and faster!) to shop–and it will help you avoid overspending based on emotion.

Tip 2–Choose experiences over stuff

People remember how you make them feel, not what you give them. This holiday season, try gifting experiences that will allow you to spend more quality time with friends and family, or allow them to spend more quality time with one another.

For example, you might put together a basket filled with movie snacks and tickets to the local movie theater for your cousins, nieces and nephews, or close friends. Another good idea is to browse local event listing websites like Eventbrite or Eventful to find events and outings that suit your loved ones’ specific interests.

Tip 3–Give your time

This holiday shopping tip is my favorite. The simplest idea here is to perform a random act of kindness every time you go out shopping. Open the door for a family or elderly person. Trade your spot in line with someone with only one or two items in their cart. Another idea is to make a charitable contribution on someone’s behalf to an organization that is near and dear to that person.

Extend this tip further by giving your time and volunteering at your local homeless shelter or at another charitable organization that is meaningful to you. I like to use the following websites to find volunteer opportunities and connect with important charitable organizations that are doing amazing work in my community and surrounding communities: VolunteerMatch, Points of Light’s Hands on Network and Just Serve.

Tip 4–Remember, less is more

Yes, this tip is key to remember during holiday shopping season. Less really is more. Think of all the gifts you’ve received in your life that you didn’t really want or need, that later became clutter. Forget the impulse buys and enticing trinkets decked along the cash wrap. Often times these type of gifts are just plain junk–totally useless. They become clutter in your loved ones’ homes or end up in the garbage, giveaway pile or yard sale. Over the years as a professional organizer, I’ve learned to ask my loved ones directly what they actually want or need. That way I can purchase something truly meaningful or useful.

Now, I hereby declare that you are ready to brave the holiday shopping crowds. Go on, grab your favorite coffee tumbler, bundle up and tackle that holiday to-do list.

Still feeling overwhelmed by all the holiday deals out there? Worry not!

Read more on how to shop smart this holiday season.

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