It's early autumn on Robson Street, but Aoife Dowling is Christmas shopping.

With her at all times is a list of who she is buying for and what she is looking for.

"If I pick up one thing one week and another thing another week then little by little I tick things off my list and everything is done," Dowling said.

The gifts are destined for relatives in four countries overseas so her deadline is early November.

"It all has to go in one box," she said.

Dowling might also purchase online from stores close to where her relatives live -- that saves postage, and possible damage in shipping.

According to Scott Hannah of the Credit Counselling Society, Aoife has the right idea starting early.

"We would recommend that they have the budget nailed down by the end of October," Hannah said.

The Credit Counselling Society has developed an eight week plan for holiday spending.

Step one is deciding what you really want to do this holiday season.

"We forget about putting in some time -just some downtime for family," Hannah said.

Then you need to decide what you can reasonably spend on gifts, travel, and entertainment - everything for the holidays.

Aoife is looking for digital picture frames that she can load with pictures for relatives.

"Some of the best feedback I've had about gifts is not the most expensive but those that are the most thoughtful," she said.

An extravagant gift often makes the recipient of the gift feel uncomfortable.

"The reality is if we know that a family member or a friend was using credit to buy us a gift, we'd say we don't want the gift, we don't want you going into debt over Christmas time," Hannah said.

And with uncertain economic times, it may be the perfect opportunity to rethink the holiday season

"Think about what's important to us at Christmas time and this buying stuff and getting stuff, is that really what it's all about?" said Hannah.

For Aoife -- having a plan is a natural part of the season. And she doesn't have nasty bills to look forward to in January.

If you plan it out you will find you spend less and you just don't have that panic shop at the end. You'll always spend more if you spend last minute I think," she said.

With a report from CTV British Columbia's Chris Olsen.