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Holiday Shopping, Simplified

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Don’t go crazy keeping track of your holiday shopping. These five steps will make it more efficient, less wasteful, and best of all, less stressful.

This is the first of five articles in our 2013 Holiday Shopping series. Keep looking for these posts to learn how to make gift shopping easier on yourself and the environment!

This time of year, it’s easy to get caught up in the fun of shopping and buying gifts for loved ones… and easier still to stress, overspend, and lose sight of the environmentally-responsible habits you keep the rest of the year. With a little advanced planning and a little bit more organization, you can make this holiday gift-giving season one that is relatively stress-free, and cuts down on waste. Follow these steps for a greener gift-giving season:


  1. Make a list of recipients. List everyone you need to get a gift for and jot down each person’s interest, or any specific gift ideas ideas you already have. Keep the list nearby: Ideas will pop into your head — or hints will be dropped — when you least expect it. Bonus points for using scrap paper for this, or better yet, going paperless by using an app on your smartphone, whether it’s one designed specifically for gift giving, or a basic list or text app.
  2. Create a budget. Consider your overall expenses for the coming month or two and decide how much you have to spend on gifts this year. Don’t forget to factor in extra costs, such as travel, end-of-year tips, charitable donations, and larger grocery bills for holiday meals. Once you’ve figured out the total you can spend on gifts, divide the total up into roughly how much you want to spend on each person on your list.
  3. Draw up a gift list. Start really brainstorming gift ideas for everyone on your list (with your budget in mind, of course). Write down everything that comes to mind — you never know when you’ll need to come up with a Plan B if your first ideas don’t work out. Then, start to section out where you could get each gift; you might be able to buy used at a consignment store or via an auction site, and there might be things you could make yourself, or even unused items you have that could be re-gifted.
  4. Take inventory around the house. Inventory the materials you have on hand for DIY gifts, and consider items you have around the house that could become nostalgic re-gifts for the right person, such as a book you’ve read and enjoyed, or a knick-knack that someone once admired and you’ve since grown tired of. Re-gifting those items won’t be a stigma — think of it as saving resources by extending the life of an object, and eliminating the need to purchase something new. See if you have any common gift “accessories” (like batteries) around the house. Lastly, take a look at your wrapping paper supply and consider other materials that could be used to wrap and tag gifts, such as plain brown wrapping paper, scrap yarn or fabric, and kids’ drawings that aren’t going to be saved. Add any needed materials to your shopping list.
  5. Make a game plan. Try to conserve fuel and avoid contributing to traffic issues by consolidating errands and shopping trips, or by shopping in off hours so you can get there more efficiently. Call ahead if you’re not sure if a store has what you’re looking for. Better yet: Buy local, and shop online. Buying local helps support small business owners, keeping our neighborhoods healthy and vibrant, and studies have shown that ordering online has less environmental impact than going to the store.

Stuck on Step 2? Follow Recyclebank on Twitter @Recyclebank, and keep an eye out for #RBCyberFunday on Cyber Monday. A little birdie told us some exclusive deals might just be in your future!

What are your best green holiday shopping tips? Share them below!

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About the Author
Jessica Harlan
Jessica Harlan
I love finding new ways to green my family's life as painlessly as possible, and sharing those ideas with folks who want to do the same. more
  • Lisa D. 6 years ago
    I TRY to start shopping right after Christmas w/75% sales, as $ is really limited...also I ck yard sales aLOT-I find often, NEW items still boxed/store wrapped! @nd hand clothes are a norm in the family & we have several re-use places around, even here in VT! lolol I get a bunch of freebies, as well & I save those as little stocking stuffers~~ OR the rare gift basket to 1 of my sons & partners as a outta-the-green-surprise...
  • joanna l. 6 years ago
    I start shopping in the fall (buying one or two gifts per paycheck) this way I have time to find the right price and I have nt spent all of my money at once!

    Also , I ask people what they want and I make a list from that including sizes and favorite colors