Each year one element tends to darken the generally festive atmosphere of December: buying Christmas presents. While the idea of getting people you love gifts is great, actually venturing into packed shops is not. Here’s how to make buying Christmas presents less stressful.

DO set a budget. It is easy to lose track of one’s finances and overspend when buying Christmas presents. Before you haphazardly start getting gifts, set an overall budget or a budget per person and plan accordingly. When getting presents in a group, you can also fix a budget to ensure everyone spends roughly the same amount on their presents.

DON’T feel obliged to get everyone a gift. Especially for Christmas, it can feel as though you have to get something for every person you know, but this is not the case. Prioritise the people you know best and feel closest to and only then consider getting other people something small or even just a card to show that you thought of them. This will stop you from becoming overwhelmed and help you stick to your budget.

DO ask people what they want. Surprises can be nice, but for adults in particular, getting a gift you actually need is even better. Most people will have something on their mind, and simply asking will make things easier for you while also making them happy.

DON’T throw out the receipt. Even if you’re absolutely sure that the person will like your present, keeping the receipt in case something needs to be returned is always safer. Ideally, ask for a gift receipt which you can then directly hand to the person returning the present.

DO check delivery times when shopping online or sending parcels. Online shopping is a good alternative that often still allows you to support local shops if you are short on time or want to avoid crowded places. While most orders are now delivered extremely quickly, it can take longer around Christmas. Before ordering, double-check the delivery times to avoid disappointment. The same applies when sending presents in the post; leave some extra time just in case. If you are ordering things from or sending gifts to the UK, keep in mind that current postal strikes will likely affect the delivery.

DON’T dismiss gift cards. Gift cards get a bad reputation, with people thinking they are lazy and uncreative options, but they can make great presents. Especially if you don’t know the person well, a gift card will allow them to get something they really want. You also have a large variety to choose from, making it a suitable gift for a number of people.

DO get crafty. Making your own presents can be very fulfilling if you have the time and skill to do so. Something handmade truly shows people how much you appreciate them, and depending on what you choose to make, it might even allow you to save some money. Making your own presents requires more careful planning, so leave plenty of time to finish your projects.

DON’T limit yourself to material gifts. While one of the joys of gift-giving is handing over the actual present and watching the other person unpack it, non-material gifts can bring just as much pleasure. When looking for a present, consider gifting an experience, such as planning a nice meal, organising a day trip, or getting tickets to a show.

DO start early. Getting all these different presents is stressful enough without having to go to overcrowded shops only days before Christmas. To avoid getting overwhelmed, start planning in early December, noting what you want to get for whom and where to get it. This way, you can slowly work through that list without getting into a last-minute rush. If you’re extremely well organised, you could even get presents throughout the year. If you spot something a person would love or if they mention something specific, get it and then store it until Christmas.