This morning, I saw a book that I thought would make a great Christmas gift for my father-in-law, and I thought: “How have I not started my Christmas gift list yet?  Christmas is less than two months away!”  (Okay, I said that last part out loud to my husband, who was NOT happy with me!).  More importantly, I knew it was time to launch my “Get Ready for the Holidays” series!  I’ll bring tips, tricks, reviews, checklists and all sorts of help to get you ready throughout November and December for the holiday season!

christmas hanging template with italics

Lots of us are not new to keeping gift ideas and wish lists organized, utilizing hidden paper lists or maybe spreadsheets to help keep track of some parts of this joy (or nightmare) of holiday gift shopping.  Last year, I decided that my iPhone was going to continue to be a great resource for me in making my life easier and more productive, and that there had to be “an app for that.”  I checked out a few different iPhone apps to see if I could find one that helped me with all the challenges that come with holiday gift shopping:

  • Keeping track of the people on my gift list

  • Capture different gift ideas I have for each of them

  • Set and manage a budget

  • Shop (in-store or online) efficiently

  • Communicate with others about gifts ideas for people in my family

  • Help me see how much I have left to do on my list

  • Keep nosy eyes from seeing what’s in store for them this Christmas

  • And, because it will be on my phone, for it to be where I needed it, when I needed it

I sampled quite a few apps, and I want to share with you the two apps I found to be superior to the others, and tell you what I liked, what I didn’t, and why you should give these a shot!

The two I liked best were “The Christmas List” and “Santa’s Bag”; both really met all of my needs. Each had a few aspects that were unique, and as a result, I definitely had a favorite. But I believe you can’t go wrong with either of these choices!  Both of these have:

  • Passcodes to help keep your information secret

  • Set and manage your budget, adjust along the way

  • Split or share gifts, or assign gifts to multiple recipients (Dad and Father-in-Law each getting the same book?  Sister and Brother-in-Law getting a shared gift? Use this function

  • The ability to dictate gift ideas (for iPhones that allow for that capability)

  • Archive gifts from year to year — keep track of what you gave in the past, or what was asked for and not received, but start fresh each year with a clean slate

  • Share lists with others — either wish lists for someone, shopping lists, or progress lists for a giftee

  • Customize the image associated with the gift recipients

  • Organize gifts by store to make shopping easier

  • Can add notes to each gift item for any unique information

  • Online support directly in the app

  • Can sort and view based on all different options — budget by person, total budget, items remaining, etc.

  • Countdown clock to Christmas

As for where they offer slightly different functions:

The Christmas List, costs $1.99 in the iTunes App Store.

  • Notes can be kept at the person level, not just the gift level.  A good way to store information like sizes, favorite colors, hobbies, and “avoid this” information that you can keep year after year on your gift recipients.

  • Can manage at a glance where you’re at, either “items left to purchase” or “budget remaining”

  • Can set priorities (must have, definitely wants, maybe) for each item to help with prioritization

  • The Stores list includes a lot of preloaded options, and can be added to quickly (whereas Santa’s Bag only allows for adds or reuse ones already entered)

  • Pie chart graph which shoes, for all items, where things are in process:  To Do, Purchased, Wrapped, etc…

  • Sharing options of info and lists can be done through Airdrop, text message, email, or air print (versus only email for Santa’s Bag)

  • My favorite differentiator: “Quick add” — can type or dictate a full list of multiple items at once, and they’re automatically converted into individual gift entries.  A time saver, and works with a stream of consciousness better.

Sample Screen Shots (from iTunes):

Santa’s Bag, Free in the iTunes App Store.

  • Price can automatically include sales tax, or not include it.  (For instance, if I buy something on Amazon, I don’t pay sales tax in this state… yet. So, I can omit tax for those, but include it for others, to more accurately track to budget.)

  • Can add recipients from Contacts or from Facebook, not just typing

  • Has a good main summary page (better than The Christmas List) that has budget and gifts left to purchase at a glance.

  • Countdown to Christmas, instead of number of days (like The Christmas List) is in days, hours, minutes and seconds… for those of us who really just can’t wait!!

  • It’s free, compared to The Christmas List, which costs $1.99 at the time of this publication.

  • And, for the most unusual differentiator… The Santa image skin tone can be from lighter to darker.

Sample Screen Shots (from iTunes)

My favorite of the two is The Christmas List.  For me, the quick add functionality and the  pie charge progress report are the items that put me over the edge.  And I find the “to the second” countdown clock in Santa’s Bag a little visually overwhelming, for no real value for me.   But that may be just the thing YOU love about it, so try one of these out this year, and help get all your holiday shopping in order…  helping to make your holiday season a stress-free one!

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