Find your phone, or diary, or scrap of paper and start writing. Make a list of everyone will need to buy a gift for, from those closest to you to your child's teacher, the person looking after your pets while you are on holiday, and your next door neighbour. That way, you know exactly who you are shopping for, and the temptation to impulse buy is reduced when you eventually hit the shops.
Now you know who - and how many - you are shopping for, set a dollar value for each person, and try to stick to it. If you build this extra spending into your November budget, as well as your December budget, the shock to the bank account won't be quite so concentrated. The same rule applies if you start picking up the odd thing for Christmas dinner now, as well (non-perishable, of course).
We've all wandered aimlessly around shopping malls in the weeks leading up to Christmas, at a complete loss as to what aunt Jean really wants this year. So next time you talk to her, listen to what she talks about, and add any ideas to that list you've made. Then, start hunting out sales to get a really good bargain.
Want to buy everyone matching Christmas jandals? You can be much more subtle about finding out your family's sizes earlier in the year than a week before Santa's due to visit. Once you have the info, put it in that list - which is starting to look pretty useful now, right?
Think about it; rather than buying all those periphery people (see: dog sitter/neighbour) a bottle of wine each, why not pick up a case of something classic instead. By splitting that up, you'll save time (and money) and when unexpected guests turn up bearing gifts, you won't be scrambling for something to give them.
Let's pretend Christmas Day has actually moved to November 25. With you list fleshed out it's definitely possible you can get all your shopping done a whole month early. Just think how smug you'll feel when everyone else is playing bumper cars at the local mall in December!
And, after all that planning and preparation, there is nothing worse than the feeling that comes with missing the final Christmas post dates if you have gifts and cards to send overseas.