4 guys share their holiday shopping secrets

53 percent of men characterize holiday shopping as "awful." It doesn't have to be this way.

True or false? Men really dislike holiday shopping.

Normally, we wouldn't paint with such broad strokes — but according to a 2013 eBay Deals survey, that statement may actually be true.

The survey broke down shopping behaviors and attitudes by gender, and found that more than 70 percent of men consider buying Christmas and Hanukkah presents more stressful than a trip to the DMV or being stuck in traffic — and 53 percent would characterize holiday shopping as "awful."


But the reality is that holiday shopping doesn't have to be all that bad — if you take the time to create a good plan of attack.

To prove it, we've rounded up sound holiday shopping tips from guys who've got it all under control. Read on as they spill their favorite strategies for figuring out what loved ones really want, finding deals — and tying it all up with a shiny bow.

The year-round deal hound

George Ruan, 35, founder of a Google Chrome extension coupon finder, Arcadia, California

My strategy for buying gifts for the people on my list — including my wife, 2-year-old daughter, brother, in-laws, and friends — is all about starting early and knowing the best time to buy certain items.

I've learned that September and October are good times to purchase apparel, home decor, appliances, and even cars. It's great to buy stuff post-holidays, too, because retailers want to clear their overstock in January and February. If I waited until the home stretch to start shopping, it's unlikely I'd find a good deal.

So to capitalize on timing, I collect intel year-round on things my family and friends like by checking my wife's Pinterest board and my friends' Amazon wish lists.

This year I'm giving my in-laws a Nespresso machine because they always use mine when they come over. I'm getting a Sriracha hoodie for my brother (he loves the hot sauce), a baby-mop for friends who just had a kid, and a coffee table for my clutter-hating wife.

Kicking it off: I casually start shopping in January, but really ramp up my efforts toward the end of summer.

Running the numbers: Buying gifts early has other perks, especially from a budgeting perspective. When I spread out the financial cost of holiday shopping throughout the year, paying for everything becomes much more manageable.

For example, if I'm going to spend $1,000 on holiday gifts, it's easier to buy an $83 gift every month, rather than get hit with a $1,000 credit card statement in January.

To wrap up: I wrap my own presents, even though I hate doing it.

In the past I've wrapped them in newspaper from the date when I bought the gift. I like this idea because it reduces waste and gives people the impression that it was well-planned.

But since canceling my newspaper subscription, I've switched to brown kraft paper, with no added decoration.

The "more thought, less money" gift giver

Drew Traylor, 25, financial adviser, Atlanta

I'm buying presents this year for my parents, two brothers and my 3-year-old son — although our family doesn't usually place too much emphasis on exchanging gifts. Instead, we celebrate by spending quality time with each other.

But when I do buy presents, I make sure they're thoughtful. If you care about someone, you pay attention to what they need. And it's even better if you can surprise them with something they didn't think they needed … until you gave it to them.

My parents started raising chickens a couple of years ago, so my brothers and I may get them something related to that, like cleaning out the cage a few times or building them a bigger coop. My son is obsessed with the Ninja Turtles, so I'll probably buy him some action figures. Little boys don't need too much in order to get excited. My goal is to get him something that will really make him light up.

I'll probably buy my older brother a nice bottle of bourbon, and I'd like to get my younger brother an experience that he'll enjoy, like tickets to a sporting event.

Kicking it off: I don't start buying until a month out, but I'm always paying attention to what people might want, so I have a lot of possibilities to choose from. Fortunately, my family starts dropping hints over the summer.

Running the numbers: I usually cap my spending at about $200 for my parents, $75 for each brother, and $50 for my son — a total of $400. I get a week and a half off work for the holidays, and spend much of that time at home — therefore saving a good bit more money than I would in a typical week, where I go out more. I plan to use that money to help fund my gifts.

I don't have a significant other, which I think helps keep my budget under control. When I did have a girlfriend, I'd average about $200 to $400 on gifts for her.

To wrap up: I typically wrap my own gifts, but I don't pride myself on it. If I can get it done at the store, I will. I also buy nice cards to go with my gifts, and add a handwritten note. That's an art that's been lost with my generation — and my parents love it.

The estate sale and eBay scourer

Chris Kummer, 32, associate account executive, Seattle

For the past five years, I've almost exclusively bought gifts at estate sales and on eBay. Here's my logic: Everyone I'm buying gifts for — my girlfriend, parents, granny, and sister — has a 'thing,' a hobby, or something they collect.

So about once a month, I check out estatesales.net to locate sales near me. You'd be surprised how many unique, affordable gifts you can find. Plus, you're discovering something that has a story or is specific to a region.

For example, my girlfriend likes antiques, brass jewelry boxes and reading. So far, I've found her an old nautical map of the Puget Sound that I'll get framed. My mom likes Depression glass, so I got her a butter dish. I also found some French antique tarot cards for my sister.

Kicking it off: I start months in advance, because five years ago I learned my lesson: I didn't start early, and I had to get all of my shopping done in two weeks.

I was at Barnes & Noble, and the cashier asked the guy in front of me if it was his last stop. He said it was, and they all clapped their hands for him. I felt so bad for the guy, like, Oh, another man is finished shopping! I could have been that guy.

Running the numbers: I usually spend $300 to $500 on my girlfriend, and $100 to $150 each on everyone else in my family. I picked these numbers because I know generally what we've always spent on each other in the past. I'm able to plan ahead by setting aside a fraction of that amount over the year, so it's not a shock to my budget in December.

To wrap up: I do wrap my gifts — but poorly. Everyone knows which gifts are from me because they're sort of 'eh' looking. I do my best!

The sneaky, last-minute shopper

Farbod Shoraka, 32, cofounder and C.E.O. of an online flower delivery service, Santa Monica, California

This year I'm buying for my mom, sister, and girlfriend. The women in my life have done so much for me. That said, women are tough to shop for — they're very picky about certain things or styles.

That's why I stay away from jewelry or clothing. My go-to gifts are flowers, which I imagine every woman loves, and technology. Getting them the latest iPhone or even a nice Bluetooth speaker makes daily life more enjoyable, and hopefully makes them think of me when they use it.

But to make sure I get it right, the strategy I've recently implemented is to lie and tell them I already got their gifts — and have them guess what it is. The first things they suggest are usually what they really want, so I get one of those. It's working nicely, so I'm going to keep pushing it.

Kicking it off: I'm a procrastinator at heart — not just with gifts — but with everything in life. So I start shopping a couple weeks out. But I find that it's enough time for me to feel comfortable that I can get anything I need delivered on time.

Running the numbers: I'm fortunate enough to not have a tight budget, and I've spent about $500 on each of the women in my life in previous years. However, there have been times when I knew they really needed — or wanted — something that goes above that.

For instance, the last gift I gave my girlfriend was a laptop, which was almost double my normal budget. But she was using a 5-year-old computer that took her 15 minutes to load up. I thought it was time for a change, and I spent a little more to get her something that I felt would last a long time.

To wrap up: I just got into the whole wrapping thing. I used to be the guy who would put the gift in the bag from the store, but my office manager is very crafty and taught me that the wrapping is just as important as the gift.

I've since realized the feeling of anticipation that comes with the act of unwrapping a present is definitely part of the gift-giving experience.

This story was originally published on LearnVest. LearnVest is a program for your money. Read their stories and use their tools at LearnVest.com.

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