(ARA) - The holiday season is upon us. That means the stress that comes with shopping for that perfect gift is not far behind. So, what's the best way to go about making a list, checking it twice and sticking to a budget?
Audrey McClelland is the founder of Mom Generations, an online destination for moms. She is an expert at holiday shopping for her tech-savvy husband, four boys all younger than 6, and a large extended family.
McClelland offers her top five holiday shopping tips and gift ideas that will help you conquer your holiday shopping - on budget - for everyone on your list.
1. Keep a master list. It can get overwhelming around the holidays when you are trying to decide whom to shop for. Outline everyone you need a gift for, and remember to incorporate any unexpected last-minute gifts. Then write down a realistic number on what you want to spend on each person and stick to it. Seeing it on paper will make it easier to knock items off your list while keeping your budget in check.
2. Be sure to have gifts on hand that can be given to anyone … regardless of their tastes. For example, Staples carries colorful Omnitech mini speaker pods in jewel tones for only $10 that can plug into any iPod, Sony PSP, or MP3 player, and are perfect for kids and grown-ups on the go. Digital photo ornaments in the shape of decorative balls or snowflakes make another universally likeable gift for less than $15. These are also time-savers to have on hand for office Yankee swaps, hostess gifts or any unanticipated presents you may need.
3. Don't waste time rushing from store to store. Try condensing your shopping visits to the fewest number of stores possible. Pick a shopping destination or two, and commit to buying as many gifts as you can for your list there. If you're looking for the newest tech items, Staples stores offer interactive displays that allow you to get a feel of the newest tech products before you buy, whether you're considering a Kindle for your mother-in-law or a Flip video camera for that next family vacation.
4. It's a digital world - follow your favorite shopping places on Facebook and Twitter. Many stores reward their followers with up-to-the-minute deals via these social media outlets. Stores occasionally post exclusive print-out coupons and deals specifically for their Facebook friends, and let you know about upcoming events ahead of time.
5. Check out the websites of the stores that you plan to visit before heading into the actual store. You may be surprised by the variety of products some stores offer. It also helps you to become acquainted with the product selection and can help you to nail down specific items for each person on your list, making your trip more efficient. You may even decide to purchase some items directly on the website and have them shipped to the recipient to avoid a trip to the store or post office. For example, Staples.com offers free shipment on items over $50.
"Every year, inevitably, I get caught up in the frenzy of the season," says McClelland. "However, by sticking to these tips, I can focus on the joy of gift giving and the satisfaction of knowing I did it all under budget."