The Christmas season is an exciting time full of peace, joy, love and lots of holiday spirit. But it can also be an incredibly stressful time as gift lists get longer and budgets grow tighter.

My mom and I braved the mall on Black Friday and were astounded by some of the things we saw. The parking lot was a zoo of people whose patience had run thin and a cacophony of horns blared from every direction. Inside the stores, people were completely thoughtless of those around them and ran into each other, or rammed into the back of each other’s legs with strollers. I couldn’t help but wonder where the Christmas spirit was for these people. Were they full of joy and excitement as they carefully selected the perfect gift? Nope – it was just a simple transaction and then they were on to the next deal.

I was instantly reminded of how my grandmother had so much joy in shopping for Christmas gifts and who made it look so easy. As the time for Christmas shopping approached, she would write each of our names in a notebook. There, she would carefully track each gift and the cost. Her goal was for each of us to receive the same number of gifts totaling the same amount of money (give or take a few dollars). As we’ve gotten older, she’s changed her practices in favor of giving us cash, but the joy is the same.

So what have I learned from my grandma’s Christmas shopping system?

Stick to a budget.

Did you know that the average American goes $1,000 into debt because of Christmas and over half are stressed about it? One way to combat stress at this time of the year is to set a budget. This may seem like a novel concept where extravagant, expensive gifts are all the rage. But I believe, it is an important piece in having a stress-free holiday. Each year, my husband and I create the list of people to purchase gifts for and how much we will spend. Sometimes we set a budget as a whole, and some years we’ve set budgets based on individuals or groups of individuals. Set a budget this Christmas and honor God by not going into debt just to buy presents!

Thoughtfully consider each gift.

Let’s face it – we’ve all received the random gift from the distant relative. You know, the sweater that’s two sizes too big or your 2nd or 3rd copy of a popular movie. Don’t be that relative! This year, thoughtfully consider each purchase. Make your gift list and think about what each person truly needs or desires. Think outside of the box! I keep a list of gift suggestions on my phone year-round and make sure to take note of any ideas I have for certain people. This gives me a great starting point when it’s time to go shopping. Make your budget have more of an impact but adding a layer of intentionality to your giving.

Buy ahead and shop smart.

Shopping is one of my favorite activities, so it’s no surprise that I shop for gifts year-round. I always have my eye open for gifts for those on my list, for birthdays and Christmas. I normally score great deals at after Christmas sales, off-price retailers, department store seasonal sales, and of course, on Black Friday. This year, many retailers placed their best deals online, allowing shoppers to make purchases before Black Friday. Additionally, making online purchases over Thanksgiving weekend and Cyber Monday, can save you the cost of shipping, which can add up quickly if you have a lot of out of town family.

Don’t lose the joy of giving.

In the hustle and bustle of the Holidays, it’s easy to lose focus of what giving gifts is all about. The gifts we give to our loved ones are symbolic reminders of the gifts that the Wise Men gave to Jesus, and the gift that God gave our world over 2000 years ago. Jesus was truly the best gift of all! This year, don’t let the stress of Christmas shopping overwhelm you. Be filled with joy as you shop and give your gifts, remembering the hope, joy and peace that the Savior brings!