I assume that by now most of you will already have bought their Christmas presents but as it is a yearly struggle you might want to keep these things in mind for next year.

DO start by asking people if they want or need anything specific. Getting people something they really enjoy is always the best option, that’s why targeted gift shopping is best. Most adults won’t mind knowing what their present will be, if they know it will be something they actually want. If you want to keep the surprise for children you can simply ask their parents. Knowing what to buy before hitting the shops will also save you some time as you won’t have to wander around as much.

DON’T wait until the last minute. I personally am very bad at this and you might see me hunting for last minute gifts on Christmas Eve but this is anything but ideal. The closer we come to Christmas the busier the shops get and that’s something you’ll want to avoid, especially now. It’s best to start early so you won’t have to go to any shops when they are almost overflowing with people who left it too late. If you can it might be a good idea to do your Christmas shopping during the week as shops are generally less busy then, compared to weekends.

DO set a budget. Buying gifts can quickly become very expensive, therefore having a clear plan before you start is the best way to avoid any excessive expenses. You might want to set a budget for each person, where you possibly want to spent more on the people closest to you, or set apart designated Christmas money as a whole.

DON’T be afraid of vouchers. Some claim that these are impersonal but I think it is better to buy a voucher than something they might not like, especially when you are not that close to them. Just make sure that the voucher is from a shop they actually visit and like because anything else would just defeat the point.

DO shop locally. Shopping locally is always a good idea but it is particularly nice to do it for Christmas and to show your favourite local shops some love. Moreover this is also often better for the environment and sometimes even cheaper. Small local shops also offer more unique items if that is what you’re after.

DON’T buy pets as a present. Getting someone a pet for Christmas is not a good idea unless they specifically asked for one and have already made arrangements to welcome it into their house. A lot of pets that are gifted around Christmas unfortunately end up back in shelters because people were not ready to care for them.

DO make presents yourself. DIY presents are as personal as it can get and a good alternative if you don’t want to spent a lot of money. These gifts can range from homemade biscuits, to hand knitted scarf and socks. Depending on your skills you might even want to produce some artworks. This personal touch makes the presents often more memorable and shows that you really put some thought in it.

DON’T wrap everything in non-recyclable wrapping paper. A ton of wrapping paper is wasted each year and often these are not recyclable, because of glitter decorations and the like. Just check the label before buying wrapping paper, usually these are the ones that are less shiny. If you want to reduce your waste even more, opt for reusable wrapping paper made out of fabric.

DO explore different alternatives. You might want to go beyond traditional presents such as books or clothes and opt for something more special such as an experience. These range from cooking classes, to more adventurous things such as skydiving.

DON’T rely too much on online shopping. Online shopping is very convenient and a good alternative if you want to avoid the shops right now. However, in general it might be a good idea to avoid online shopping as it is often very harmful for the environment and for local shops, while warehouse workers often suffer from bad working conditions.

DO be aware of delivery times. If you do opt for online shopping make sure to give it some time because postal services are often overwhelmed by the huge amount of parcels that get ordered around Christmas and they might not be delivered as quickly as usual. Most websites tell you the days and times by which you should order for your parcels to be delivered before Christmas. In case the present doesn’t arrive on time, you can always print out a picture of what it was supposed to be and put it in a Christmas card.

DON’T overdo it. It is very tempting to buy too much once you’ve started but try to be mindful about how much you buy. I am not saying that you shouldn’t buy anything but it is worth thinking about how much you actually need to buy to make someone happy; it is probably less than you think. Organising a secret Santa in the group you're celebrating with is a good way to make sure that everyone only buys one present and that everyone gets the same amount.

DO keep the receipts. No matter how well you know a person there is always the possibility that something won’t quite fit or that they won’t like whatever you got them. By keeping the receipts you give them the possibility to exchange the present for something they like and will actually find a use for, just let them know that you still have it and then they can make up their mind. Most shops have extended the time during which you can exchange items around the holidays, so there should be plenty of time for them to exchange the present. Alternatively, you can ask for a gift receipt which won’t show the price and then add it to the present.

DON’T show your disappointment if you get something you don’t particularly like. Sometimes it is hard to not look disappointed when you open a present which you really don’t like, but try your best to hide it! The person who bought it for you probably put some thought into it and it would be rude to devalue that effort by showing disappointment.

DO remove the price tags. Removing the price tags is mostly a formality but it indicates that it is not the price that matters and therefore it is a polite thing to do.

Merry Christmas!