Monday, November 30, 2009

Streamlining Gift Giving

Last year's tree.

Without meaning to, I’ve finished almost all of my Christmas shopping. I have a couple of gifts left to buy or make, but I know exactly what they are and they shouldn’t take me very much time at all. I sort of don’t understand the whole “I’m so stressed out I have so much shopping left to do and not enough time left to do it in” phenomenon. I keep reading blog entries about people’s resolutions for this year’s gift buying season to keep it stress-free. While I’m glad they’re working out something that makes their life easier, it isn’t something I really relate to. I literally have never had a panicked gift-giving moment. Oh my, I’m sounding smug. I’ll shut up already and tell you my strategies.

1) We hardly buy gifts for anyone. I get things for Chuk, and together we get things for our parents and siblings; this year we’ll add our niece to the shopping list, but that’s it. (We also have a rule that when a couple starts having kids, we won’t get gifts for the parents anymore, just their kids. This helps keep the list from growing as the family grows.) Nothing for friends or extended family. Chuk makes a batch of fudge and brings it in to a few (three to five) co-workers, but only because he likes to make fudge and we shouldn’t be eating all of it ourselves. When working, I don’t give gifts to co-workers.

When you give a gift out of a feeling of obligation, you’re not really giving a gift. You don’t have to follow the same rules we do, but a good rule of thumb is, if you don’t know them well enough to get them something you know they’ll love, and instead are buying people candles, picture frames, and other “generic” gifts, you shouldn’t be buying for them.

2) I don’t buy (or make) gifts just because someone gave me one. (See above.) Here’s the key: I don’t feel one bit of guilt about it either. Most people want to shorten their lists but don’t because they’re worried about what the other person is going to think about them. Be the brave one, let go of the fear and guilt and be the first one to stop. They’ll be grateful you did and you will be too. Let’s face it, you’re spending $5 or $10 or $20 or hours and hours on something they don’t even like or want. (Have we not all gotten some stupid knick-knack and thought, “I wished you had just saved your $10.”?) Get off the consumption roller coaster. It will hurt for a few days, but after that, you’ll feel liberated, I promise. (Long, beautiful, specific thank you letters that you write, as opposed to preprinted cards, go a long way in assuaging guilt.)

3) I always know what to get someone because I have my radar up all the time, year round. If someone mentions something they like, they want, or they need, no matter what it is, I make a mental note of it. (Even if you know you’re not going to give them that, it will help you generate other ideas.) If I’m at someone’s house and I notice something they need, I make a mental note of it. If I see something cute in a store, I make a mental note of that too. As soon as I get home, I dump my mental notes into the document on my computer called “gift ideas”. (It's important to note I don't buy the item when I think of it.) I list each person I’m going to get gifts for name and then list possible gifts for him/her. Whatever I buy/make them, I delete from the list, but keep adding to it as I think of things.

Example: When we were in Florida for some friends’ wedding, the groom’s mother folded a bunch of origami cranes as favors. Hardly anyone took them, so when I was cleaning up after the wedding, I took many of the extra cranes and brought them home with me. I’m saving them to make a mobile because I know the couple tried to start having a baby as soon as they got engaged. Because I know it’s likely I’m going to their baby shower in the next year, I already started planning the gift, making sure it is personal and specific to them.

4) I do almost all of my shopping online. It saves me time and money by allowing me to comparison shop all the stores at once for the best price on a particular item. Plus, I don’t know about you, but browsing through stores leaves me open to temptation. Because I have a list and shop online, I only buy the things I’ve set out to buy, not little extras that are being marketed to me. I do a lot of ordering all at once, which eliminates shipping costs. I love Amazon’s wish list and especially their new Universal Wish List button. (I'm not compensated by any company for saying that.) These tools help me facilitate shopping. (They help people shop for me too!)

That’s it! Stay tuned because I have some ideas for streamlining gift wrapping too.

What about you? Have you had your holiday shopping done since July? Do you wait until Dec. 20 to start shopping? How long is your list? Do you go the “three presents” route or is it less structured? What works for you?


  1. Yeah... not done, but I totally agree about limiting the gift list. I spent a long time feeling bad that my next door neighbor's daughter's dog gave me something and I had nothing to give back. People really oughta let it rest. And who really needs one more scented bath set in a crazy, allergy-attack inducing scent? =)

  2. Gifts is my love language, so I have trouble limiting my gift giving...fortunately, I've never had a long list of people I've had to buy for...and like you, once kids become part of the family, I stop buying for the parents at Christmas. However, I had to comment on the baby mobile idea...I think that is absolutely fantastic! So from one who loves to give gifts and has a talent for buying things people truly love, I recognize the talent in another...and you have it too. :) Such a lovely idea!

  3. I make tiny Christmas cracker ( trinket gifts ) I either make or brother usually gets hot sauce ( but one year when i worked at walmart i got him a bottle of doe urine because i bought it off season july...he hunts deer I guess its useful ) Everyone 2+yr old get on and the ones still in High school/under 18 gets a small gift ( usually books) unless they have gotten married/had a baby ( which happens and i then treat them like an adult regardless of age!)

    To put this in perspective I start buying in february ( or earlier) if I can. I have 3 sisters, 1 brother, 3 brother in laws, 1 sis in law, 6 nieces, 1 nephew, 2 nephew-in-laws, 3 great-nephews and a great niece. amnd I am a recent college grad who lost her job when she graduated ...sigh


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