The shopping season is upon us. Like most, you’ll be scrambling to buy holiday gifts for family and friends. We’ve all been in that place, wandering the mall aimlessly, trying to to find that perfect gift. Indecision can lead to last minute, spontaneous gift purchases, often blowing a giant hole in what once was a holiday shopping budget. I’ve been there and vowed that this year would be different. Using my iPhone, the first step in my gift planning was to secure a great app. I’ve tried numerous apps and there were a few standouts. With a good gift plan in place, you’ll be well on your way to finishing your shopping early, while coming in under budget and getting the best gifts. Here are our selections for the best gift list apps for iPhone.

Best Gift List Apps for iPhone

GiftPlanner (Free)

This app allows you to create multiple events and assign them to a category (Holiday, Birthday, Anniversary, Special Event). You can easily create a Christmas or Hanukkah as an event and assign this to the holiday category.

Gift event

Once you create your event, you’ll need to add people to your event. You can use people in your Contacts if that’s your preference. If you have a small list of family that you’ll be exchanging with in-person, I found that adding them individually was fast and efficient. Using contacts to create your gift list makes sense if you plan on shipping gifts, thanks to the tracking options.

The people section of GiftPlanner is extremely useful. You can add sizes, interests and favorite color. When you create people, they are not automatically added to a list. People can be added to multiple lists. For this reason, it makes sense that you can add birthday and anniversary dates within the app.

Gift recipient

When you select a person, you can add the +gift icon to add a gift to your list. Here you can add store, quantity, price and picture. You can even scan a bar code for auto entry or a URL. Any miscellaneous information can be added to notes. If you’ve been ordering gifts online, you’ll appreciate the order number, tracking number and shipping company.

Gift Planner sort

The first gifts tab is one of the best features of GiftPlanner. You can sort lists based on your prescribed criteria. You can sort by price, gift, status, store and more. When you are in the trenches, powerful sorting can and will come in handy. With each gift, there is a series of completion steps that include dollar amount, shipping, received, item gift wrapped and item given. I found it useful to be able to tap on any stage of completion without having leave the main list.

Gift plan stage

Other features include the ability to hide gifts, requiring a passcode to see them. The in-app purchase provides synchronization across all of your iOS devices.

GiftPlanner rich with features for managing your gift lists.

Santa’s Bag (Free)

This app is all about Christmas, as the title would suggest. It features a Christmas countdown, letting you know just how many days, hours, minutes and seconds you have to secure your gifts. There is a clear focus on budget with Santa’s Bag. One of the first things you’ll do is to set a budget for Christmas shopping. As you buy gifts, the amount of your purchase is deducted from your budget. The app shows you critical information including how much you have left to spend and how much you’ve have allocated to buy. This helps provide the all important number of how much you have left to plan (spend).

Santas Helper budget

From the home page, you can jump between ‘Countdown’ and ‘Dashboard’. The latter provides a similar quick view of important event information, but goes a bit further. It lists the number of recipients, gifts and ideas, stocking stuffers and shopping list. From here you can easily find your way to important sections of your app.


The menu button at the top right reveals a wealth of options grouped into Favorites, Quick Lists, Setup and more. Most will use the recipients section first to add those on your list. Santa’s Bag supports importing from iOS contacts and Facebook. After adding a recipient, you can set a budget for them, add gifts and ideas, stocking stuffers, wishlist and preferences. There are also a row of tabs that allow you to call, text, email or reach out via social networks. When you select one of the tabs, a drop-down menu will reveal the associated list. If you are working with another person, say your wife or husband, there is a share option to email any or all of the lists.

Menu options

There are two other views for recipients. One displays the budget with total spent, total budget and amount remaining. The other is a view that shows images of the recipients that you added during setup. Tapping on an image brings back into the main gift list for that individual.

Gift List Santa

The gifts section of favorites can be very useful for when you make your trips out shopping. They can be sorted by a number of variables. You can also segment your list based on what hasn’t been purchased and more. As you make purchases, tapping on the shopping cart allows you to change its status to purchased, wrapped or given. All helping you manage your way through the process. If you are like me, you plan your trips through the mall based upon store location. You can select the stores tab to view what stores you need to visit.

Christmas list

Santa’s Bag offers an in-app purchase option of $2.99 that will remove ads, offer dropbox backup/restore and archive gifts from past years.

The entire user interface of Santa’s Bag has been optimized for iOS 7. It’s simple, yet incredible powerful, which makes for a great combination.

Gifted ($2.99)

An all encompassing gift list app, Gifted helps you keep track of gifts, people and events. It all starts with adding people that you buy gifts for throughout any given year. For each person, you add important dates such as birthdays, anniversaries. Gifted will create events for these dates. You can also create your own events, including holidays.

Gift profile

The profile page for each person has a section for likes, dislikes, notes and sizes. You attach a person to an event. When you enter an event, it’s nicely broken into a important categories. People, Gifts, Notes and Budget. You can tap into a person to reveal their gift list. When you select a gift, Gifted provides a nifty slider that allows you to control the status from idea > need it > have it > gifted.

Need it

The shopping list is just that. It’s devoid of any clutter, providing only those gifts that you need to buy. Within each gift, it provides store, price, recipient and the event. It provides a good amount of data, without feeling overwhelming. Lists can be printed or emailed. You have to select a gift in order to change its status. As you buy gifts, they will start to fill your Gift Closet, showing you an overview of your purchased items.

Gift closet

There is no homepage or central location in Gifted. The limited menu options makes it easy to jump around, but at times I wish there were an easy way to return to the main menu without multiple clicks. I still found Gifted easy to use and appreciate how it helps you with event creation and management.

Gifted is an incredibly refined app that certainly delivers on the promise of making gift management simple for holidays and throughout the year.

Holiday shopping can be an excruciating  and costly process. Most of us have the same goals. We want to get the best gifts for our loved ones, without breaking the bank. Gift planning is nothing new, but with the advent of apps, your iPhone takes gift management to a whole new level.