Online Christmas shopping: the ultimate guide

Our Christmas shopping tips make gift-giving easier in 2020. Find out how to create a gift list, stick to your budget, and score last-minute deals.

6 min read

Christmas 2020 will be unlike any other. As coronavirus continues to turn our lives upside down, we have to rethink how we’ll celebrate the festive season. Buying gifts for friends and family will take a little more time and planning, as most of us will be shopping online to avoid crowded malls and markets. 

We’ve put together some tips to help you create a gift list, stick to your budget, score last-minute deals, and stay safe while shopping online.

Online Christmas shopping list

The internet is bursting with options, so it can be hard to know where to start. If your relatives have set up wish lists online, that’s an easy way to narrow down your search. If they haven’t, you can ask yourself the following questions to try and come up with some heart-felt gift ideas:

  • Are they saving up for a big purchase that you could contribute to

  • Have they talked about buying themselves a particular item recently?

  • Is there a topic they’re really interested in or keen to learn more about?

  • Is there an activity you could do together? (COVID-safe options include going on a day hike or eating at an outdoor restaurant.)

  • What do they do to relax?

  • Do they have a favorite food or drink? (Food-based gifts are great low-cost items and if you slightly miss the mark, they can be easily re-gifted.)

  • Do they have a favorite charity that you can donate to on their behalf?

  • Is there a store or brand they really love?

  • What do they need? (e.g., practical items for school or for working from home.)

Christmas gifts on a budget

With the Christmas countdown ticking away, it’s easy to accidentally overspend by making a last-minute impulse purchase. Keep track of your budget more easily with an app. While general note-taking apps like Evernote will do the job, we recommend specialized Christmas shopping apps that help you manage your gift recipients, planning, shopping, and budget.

Apps like Christmas Gift List (Android) and Santa’s Bag (iOS) let you create a list of all your gift recipients and set budgets for each person. When you think of great gift ideas, you can immediately add them to the app so you don’t forget them. You can mark gifts as purchased and view useful stats such as how much you’ve spent so far and your total budget. 

Early Christmas shopping tips

This festive season, there’s likely to be much less in-store shopping than in previous years as people try to reduce COVID exposure. That means the volume of online purchases and postal traffic is set to increase, so you’ll need to factor in longer delivery times. If you wait too long to click “buy now,” your presents may not arrive in time.

Commit to planning ahead and starting your Christmas shopping early. Beat procrastination by blocking out time in your calendar for online shopping and setting a timeline with concrete goals. Ideally you want to have everything “in the bag” by mid-December, so you can relax and enjoy the lead up to Christmas. 

Online stores are also keen for you to shop early this year so they can avoid logistical bottlenecks. Many retailers reward early birds with special discounts, so getting organized weeks in advance can also make your Christmas more affordable. 

How to save money on Christmas shopping

Planning and budgeting are two key ways to spend less at Christmas. If you don’t have a clear plan, you won’t really know how much you’ve forked out until it’s too late. You may also be tempted by dazzling or heavily discounted items and impulsively add them to your shopping cart without really knowing who you’re going to give them to.

Take advantage of major sales such as Black Friday on November 27 and Cyber Monday on November 30. This year, several major retailers are only offering their discounts and deals online—and many stores’ Black Friday sales are starting earlier and lasting longer. Get advance notifications by signing up for the newsletters of the stores you plan to buy from.

Christmas shopping safety tips

There can be security concerns associated with online shopping. Luckily, there are some simple ways to ensure your transactions are safe and that you can make returns or get a refund if necessary.

  • Use websites you know and trust. If a website seems a bit suspicious, look it up on the Better Business Bureau to see if it’s legit. 

  • Make sure the website is secure. The URL should start with “https” and there should be a closed padlock icon next to it.

  • Don’t make purchases when you are on a public wifi network, as it might not be secure and your payment details could be stolen.

  • Pay with a credit card wherever possible. This method of payment gives you the highest level of legal protection if you need to dispute any charges.

  • Check the return/refund policy and keep records. Save your purchase order, invoice, and any other confirmation details in case you need to send anything back.

  • Check whether the store has a customer support center that you can contact if things go wrong.

  • Read product and seller reviews—if other people had bad experiences, stay away.

Last-minute Christmas shopping tips

Even the best laid plans can be derailed by the holiday rush. Don’t lose heart! There are tons of ways to finish your last-minute Christmas shopping without paying through the nose or buying socks for everyone on your list.

  • Give experiences. If you gift someone a day trip to a national park or swing dancing lessons, all you’ll need to organize is a card. The rest can be sorted out later.

  • Donate to charities on others’ behalf. Simply print out the receipt and put it in an envelope together with a personalized note. 

  • Shop local to avoid long or uncertain shipping times. Local online stores with in-store or curbside pick-up will let you get your goodies sooner.

  • Subscriptions and memberships are ready in just a few clicks. Think entertainment (Netflix, Spotify Premium), food/cooking (Hello Fresh, Marley Spoon), or—okay, even socks.

  • Find last-minute deals on websites like RetailMeNot and Wikibuy, compare prices on ShopSavvy or Shopbrain, or set up price alerts.

The benefits of shopping local for Christmas

Shopping on the websites of local businesses is not only a great way to avoid shipping delays. When you buy from local, independent shops (not chain stores), you’re also helping support small businesses that are suffering in the current economy. By redirecting your Christmas spending, you can make a positive impact on your community and ensure your favorite stores will still be around in the future.

You can find local retailers on Google Maps, in your country’s leading online business directory, on review websites like Yelp and Foursquare, and by searching for local stores on social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram.


Online Christmas shopping with N26

N26 makes online Christmas shopping simple and secure. Spaces sub-accounts let you put money aside for gifts, so you don’t accidentally run out of funds and can easily check what’s left in your budget. Each time you buy a gift, simply move the required amount into your main account with just a few taps.

You can also add a personalized tag to your purchases (e.g. #xmas2020) to gain an overview of all your Christmas spending. Whenever you pay online with your N26 card using Apple Pay® or Google Pay®, you’ll benefit from multiple layers of security for added peace of mind.

By N26

The Mobile Bank

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