I love Christmas.
Love, love, love it.
I love the special Starbucks holiday drinks, Christmas music, and Christmas cookies. Oh, I absolutely ADORE driving around and looking at Christmas lights. Pretty much it’s an all-around perfect holiday, except for one thing… buying gifts.
Presents are awesome – a secret little somethin’ somethin’ that hides under the tree in all its brightly wrapped glory. As soon as my husband puts my gifts out, I stare at them trying to guess what’s inside. I also bug the crap out of him, trying to get him to agree to open them early – and usually win by opening one gift on Christmas Eve.
What drives me crazy though is BUYING presents.
Now that November has come, I’ve started making my list o’ people who will be getting gifts from us*. We have cut back a lot through the years, leaving us with 20 or so people on our list. Yes, I said TWENTY people. That seems like kind of a lot, right?
That’s not even including friends, co-workers, or the random neighbor who will inevitably stop by with something. This is just FAMILY members. See where I’m coming from?
Anyways, I’m actually one of those people who really WANTS to find the perfect gift for each person. But over the last few years the feeling of complete and utter gift-buying exhaustion has snuck up on me.
So here’s what I’m suggesting… let’s call it my top 5 suggestions for putting the fun back into Christmas gift buying:
Tip 1: Reduce your List
Instead of buying every single person on your list a little something, do a gift exchange. Have each of your groups (ex. close family can do one, in-law family can do one, etc.) put their names in a hat and pick one person to buy for. That way, instead of spending the brain power, shopping time and money on 5 little gifts, you can just buy a really nice gift that the person actually WANTS.
Don’t fall into the trap of, “oh well maybe I should get everyone there a little something anyways, just so no one is left out….”. NO. DON’T DO THAT because you’re totally defeating the purpose of the gift exchange AND you’re being kind of a butthole to the person who DID just buy gifts for their matched person!
Oh, and kids don’t count – kids should receive presents from everyone, because its Christmas and they’re KIDS (see tip 4).
Tip 2: Ask for Suggestions
Whether you’ve decided to pick names or if you’re going to go ahead and buy gifts for everyone and their brother, ask for gift suggestions. How the heck are we supposed to figure out what to buy you if you don’t even know what you want? It should be a rule – if you don’t provide a list of 5 items (at varying prices) that you’d like to receive then you should automatically get a Target gift card.
Tip 3: Speaking of Gift Cards
Okay, we all know that gift cards are just lazy, right? However, gift cards are also pretty awesome because you can just go out and buy yourself whatever you want. Here’s the rule – if you’re going to give someone a gift card, MAKE SURE it is to a store or restaurant that they like (and is actually NEAR where they live). That way you’re not being lazy, you’re being thoughtful.
Tip 4: Don’t Spoil the Kids
I know, this sounds like a total Grinch move, but stick with me a minute. Buying gifts for kids is HARD. Believe me, I know – we have 3 nephews and 1 niece on my husband’s side of the family and I never know what they’re into any given year. It is tempting to just go to Toys R’ Us and just purchase any plastic toy with the kid’s age group printed on the side of it. Since people typically don’t bother to include the gift receipt, the random gift gets played with for a minute and then added to the oh-my-god-the-toys-are-multiplying pile. What a great use of that $30, right?
Here’s the trick though: ask the parents what to buy. That way they can tell you whether there is some special ninja superhero lego flying thingie toy that the kid is obsessed with. Or maybe they can totally use clothes in the next size up (ask them for exact sizes and stores they like) – I know that clothes aren’t as immediately awesome as a shiny new toy, but a super cute sweatshirt is always appreciated on a snowy day. Even better, start a tradition where you buy the kid books each year. Even if they’re not necessarily a bookworm, there are lots of cool options out there that will relate to any interest they might have.
Tip 5: Succeed, Even if you Fail
Always, always, always include a gift receipt. Even if you think your gift is the most awesome gift in all the land, take the extra second and throw the gift receipt in the box. That way, the recipient can quietly exchange it for something they actually like without hurting your feelings. And you want them to get something they like, right? That’s kind of the whole goal of gift giving!
Bonus Tip: Throw a Duplicate in the Cart
Let’s say you are in the toy aisle and you’ve been instructed to buy a specifically awesome something or other that the child in your life is asking for. Or maybe you’re hanging out in the scarf and gloves section, trying to find the perfect warm and soft pair for your mom. Pick up two of whatever it is and throw it in your cart. Then, when you’re at home dividing everything into the appropriate piles, keep that gift aside to donate. There are many local needy families who are not able to have ANYTHING under the Christmas tree, so every gift helps. One of my favorite holiday giving opportunities is the Angel Tree Program through the Salvation Army – local readers (in the Columbia, MD area) can get their very own angel at the Columbia Mall between 11/23 – 12/3. If you’re not a Marylander, take a minute and google around to see if there is an Angel Tree program in your area.
There we go, my tips for having yourself a merry little Christmas. Let’s all work together to take the stress out of the holiday shopping season! Or just agree to exchange Target gift cards. That’s fine too.
So what about you, my snazzy Pocketful reader, is there something on your Christmas list** that you’re squeezing your eyes shut, hoping and wishing to receive?
*And yes, I say “us” because somehow husbands get out of the gift buying process. I don’t know how the heck they do it, but the only gifts most husbands are expected to buy is the ones for the wife. How is this fair?!
** If you don’t celebrate Christmas, insert any other holiday you’d like. I’m an equal opportunity gifting kinda girl.