Right around December 20th each year I have a mad rush of panic as I realize how many perfect gifts for my loved ones remain to be found. This year I vowed to do better. Starting in October, I started to pick up gifts as I saw them – a scarf for my aunt, a cute pair of socks for my sister. What I didn’t anticipate was that right about now it’s become really hard to remember what gifts I’ve bought for whom and who I still need to buy for.
Before I realized my conundrum, I had bought a few more gifts than I’d planned and gone a smidge over budget. Luckily I tracked down some handy applications that can track what I’ve already bought, help me stick to my budget, and offer suggestions for the friends and family still on my list. Too bad I didn’t download these back in October…
Anyone with a gift list and an iPhone (or other iOS device) should check out Santa’s Bag iPhone, free). Just enter in the people on your gift list, what you think you’d like to get for them, and set an overall budget for your holiday spending. Once you’ve got the big picture in place then you can divide your budget amongst all the people you’re buying for.
Once you’ve got it set up, the application tracks your purchases, giving you a “Countdown” page that shows the total number of gifts purchased and the amount spent on those so far, the number of gifts left to buy and the amount you’ve estimated they will cost and then shows your total – including how much over or under budget you are. The gift page shows you the status of the present (for example, “wrapped”) and the location (for example, “gift closet”) so that even those presents hidden away from eager eyes are out of sight but not forgotten.
Android users should check out Christmas Gift List, (Android, free) while Windows users can get similar functionality from Christmas List, (Windows, free). While they don’t offer as much detail as Santa’s Bag, you can keep track of gifts you want to purchase by recipient, what you’ve already bought, and how much of the amount you’ve budgeted for each individual remains available for any extra gifts you spot at the last minute.
If you have older kids or a curious spouse, make sure to enable the password protection options to keep your intended gifts a surprise for the big day.
I’ve found that there are always a few people on my list that are next to impossible to buy for – either it’s my friend’s husband who seems to have everything already, or it’s a colleague that I want to show my appreciation for but I don’t know their personal tastes well enough to narrow down a gift. This year, I’ve been able to get some great suggestions from Gift Professor, all platforms, free). Simply enter a few details about the person you’re buying for – age, gender, and their interests – and the Professor applies your filters to make suggestions for gift ideas that are sure to please even the most picky recipient. I tried entering the info for my husband – he’s got really specific tastes and generally only asks for super expensive electronic equipment – and was rewarded with a giant list that included some really fun ideas.
If you’re just looking to gather a collection of gift ideas and/or inspiration for the important folks on your list, consider using Amazon’s Mobile app, all platforms, free) to create wish lists. While the primary purpose of the list function is to create and share your own wish list, so that those wondering what you want can quickly link to the exact item in Amazon’s extensive online store, you aren’t limited in the number of wish lists that you can create. You can create one big list for everyone on your list (add comments to individual items if you’re still not sure or looking for something similar) to save ideas until you’re ready to buy, or create a separate wish list for each loved one.
The mobile app is linked to your Amazon login so you can shop straight from the app. If you remember an item while you’re waiting for your car’s oil change to be completed, you can add to your wish lists, create a new one, or purchase the item from anywhere on your mobile device. Wish lists you create on the go will be saved to your Amazon account so if you go in later to finalize purchases from your computer they’ll be there.
Mark lists as private if you don’t want others to see what you have in mind for them (public lists can be searched for in the Amazon database, and shared allows you to select those that you want to share your list with). Just keep in mind that if you share your Amazon login with your spouse, your saved wish lists will be viewable by them so you’ll have to convince them to resist the urge to peek.
Use your mobile devices as the mini handheld computers they are and take advantage of their ability to help you stay organized, on budget, and find the perfect gifts for your loved ones. Happy holidays!