Have you started your holiday shopping yet?  I’m one of those people who waits until the very last minute. I always intend to start in October but keep putting it off just a few more days until it’s December. Then I spend the next two weeks running around like a crazy person trying to buy for everyone on my holiday list. As a result, I don’t make the best decisions because I’m pressed for time.  Here are a few ways I’ve come up with to make holiday spending count—whether you plan ahead or wait until the very last minute.

Shop Small

When you’re deciding where to shop, consider starting with small businesses in your area. The Shop Small movement has a special day each year called Shop Small Saturday. Look for small, locally-owned stores in your area, and head there instead of the shopping mall. We have a few local companies that make wool socks, beeswax candles, and hand-painted Christmas ornaments that make beautiful gifts.

Make a Donation

Most people I know already have too many things, and at my house we’ve been working on decluttering and downsizing, and our needs are few. This year, I’m going to suggest that people donate in my name to a favorite charity.

Support a Cause

If you like to give a physical gift, you can always support a cause when you shop. Some international organizations offer gift items created by local artisans, for example. When you purchase a gift, your payment supports the needs of that community.

Make it Yourself

I love handmade gifts, and I know that a lot of my friends and family do as well. Take time this year (plan ahead!) to make gifts for at least some of the people on your list. Whether it’s a batch of fudge or a jar of homemade peppermint body scrub, gifts made by hand are always special.

An Experience

Instead of giving a physical gift, consider giving an experience. Children may enjoy a yearly pass to the zoo, a gift card to the local movie theater, or art lessons. Adults may like an afternoon at the spa, a gift card to their favorite restaurant, or a coffee of the month club. Or give your time: create gift certificates redeemable for a few hours of babysitting, a homemade meal, or a date to the ice cream store.

How do you make your holiday spending count?