The best bit of many things is the planning and anticipation. Let’s face it writing lists while eating gingerbread and wondering if it’s too early to play Christmas music beats dealing with family power struggles about what time to open the gifts and the correct way to eat brandy butter any day.

So I look forward to planning what gifts to buy. I have a Christmas shopping day every year with my sister. It gives us a day out together, an opportunity to buy things that we don’t want to purchase online and a second opinion on gifts for people you’re completely stumped over.

But before heading off for my seasonal shop I like to set aside an afternoon to plan and put the paperwork in place. My mum taught my sister and I to plan gift buying when we were very young, and I still use the same method today. All those years of working out what I could buy family members with my limited pocket money have engrained the system in me. I mainly use paper but have bought electronic elements into play when they seemed helpful.

You start by drawing a grid. In the left hand column you put the names of all people you need to buy gifts for. This has become more limited as I now only have one grandparent left, and with my immediate family we do ‘secret Santa’ to the value of £10 (fabulous for saving everyone money, preventing purchases of excessive nonsense and for adding a mystery element to the proceedings).

Then I add columns for Christmas Day, Boxing Day and birthdays. Small Boxing Day gifts, known as tree presents, have long been a tradition in my family. They are usually token items such as confectionary, toiletries, or alcohol. Liquor chocolates are very popular! A number of family members have birthdays around this period so I like to include these as I’m buying gifts any way.

It’s the on time to fill in the gaps. Either in one go, or by choosing to look at a certain number of people for each day of the coming week. So I look through email folders and Evernote to see if I’ve filed away any gift ideas during the year. I check the paper file I keep for similar reasons. I go through my day book. If I’m a bit short on inspiration I’ll see if they have a Pinterest account or Amazon wishlist. Pinterest doesn’t automatically help you decide on a gift but what they’ve been pining lately might suggest a theme to follow up on Christmas shopping day.

Then it’s time to create a shopping list. I organise either by specific shops or by type of shop. The people I have no specific ideas for get their own category! I prefer to write this out in a sheet of A4 paper rather than in a notebook. It’s easier to pull out to consult while shopping. I can quickly cross items off and add costs against them.

Once everything is purchased I put some suitable music on, lay it all out on the floor, and arrange by person. Then I either have a massive wrapping session, or I put it into individual bags and allow myself to linger over packing up 1 gift a day.

Just writing this post has reminded me how much I enjoy taking time over this activity and I think it’s because it allows me to anticipate the joy I hope to bring them when they open their gifts.