Every December, I’ve watched my parents schlep around a few crumpled pieces of paper that my siblings and I have given them with our Christmas present wishes scribbled down on them. The lists inevitably get either lost or torn to shreds, and the parents inevitably get to the point of tearing their hair out. Merry Christmas?

Holiday shopping list

My parents aren’t the only ones feeling the holiday shopping pressure, so, naturally, there’s an app for that. We’ve outlined the best gift list shopping apps to provide a streamlined service for processing all of those toys, clothes, and power tools wishes from friends and family when you start your holiday shopping. And, more importantly, especially in the midst of this financial state we’re all in, the app claims to help keep track of your budget. Regardless of the app you choose, here are some guidelines to use when managing your shopping with your iPhone or iPad apps.

Groups

Start your lists by creating groups of giftees. Default groups are already included (friends and family), but for those who need to add coworkers, clients, etc., the process is fairly easy. You can also set separate budgets for each group, so it would be fairly helpful to not slack and throw all of your giftees into one group.

After you’ve added all of your people and your gifts (see below), the top line of each group breaks down how many gifts you have left to buy, how many left to wrap/mail, and what your budget is looking like thus far. It’s simply a nice touch that you can look to for a quick reference.

Add Person/Gift

Add people within a group, where you will list their gift wishes and details. You have the option of typing in a name on your own, or, even better, using the address book integration feature to add a person from your iPhone’s contacts list. It’s a minor feature, but a timesaver, nonetheless.

When adding a gift, the app asks which group and which person to add it to. You’re then able to name the gift, along with the price and any notes you’d like to make (sizes, colors, makes or models, for example). Simple, yes?

Budget

At the top of each group is your overall budget for everyone within that group. Once you’ve entered a gift as “bought,” by selecting a full shopping cart icon, the gift is calculated into your “spent” total, which is also listed with the budget. As evident by my faux-list, if the gifts you’ve purchased exceed your budget, your “spent” total shows in red. Whoops.

Also, your budget for all of your groups combined is listed in the “details” at the top of the app. If you’re still within your overall budget, the “spent” total is shown in green. Here’s hoping these font colors are a deterrent/guilt trip to overspending this season.

Archive

Assuming you stick with your iPhone through to the next holiday season, the application has an “archive” feature that allows you to save the gifts you bought last season, possibly for some ideas on what to buy this year. It’s a great tool for keeping track of how much you’ve spent over the past years on certain family members of friends, instead of guessing and having a somewhat underwhelmed giftee when all is said and done.

Passcode

Worried about prying eyes or snooping kids? Make sure the app provides a passcode function that allows you to enter a four-digit passcode. The app will ask for the passcode whenever it is opened, and any snoopers will be denied. This definitely beats the hiding game my parents used to play with the key to a closet in the basement where they kept all of our gifts (it showed up in places ranging from my mother’s key ring to under the soap dish). Yay for technology!

Other Features

It’s a bit torturous when you’re a last-minute shopper like I am, so find an app that shows you how many shopping days you have left until Christmas day. Only 42 days left? Bah humbug.

Lastly, make sure you have a running tally of how many gifts you still have left to purchase. It’s a cruel reminder to see when you’re swiping past games to take your mind off of all the shopping you have left to do, but if this app doesn’t do it, who or what will?

Chuck those paper lists and switch over to an app-ified Christmas list, using any from our best gift list apps.This is an excellent way to keep track of your spending, your success rate, and avoid forgetting or losing a list when going straight to the mall from the office. Though $2.99 seems a little high for a very simple app, the developers have thought about everything the busy holiday shopper needs. Snoopers, excuse-makers, and overspenders: Sorry, you’re out of luck with this one.