Monday, December 08, 2008

Simplify Your Holiday Giving

It seems like Christmas is right around the corner, and I find myself totally unprepared. I've had a few business trips in quick succession, and they've really eaten into my personal time. I have another trip to make before Christmas leaving me even less time, so Christmas is going to have to be really simple this year.

Here are some suggestions for simplifying your Holiday giving:

1) limit the number of people you buy for. In my family, we focus on the kids. So, my primary shopping is for my kids and my nieces and nephews.

2) standardize on gifts. I have an aunt who chooses two gifts every season. One for the boys and one for the girls. Everyone on her list gets the same gift. This may seem really impersonal, but in reality, it is quite the contrary. I always really look forward to her gifts. They are always well-chosen and really cool. She puts more thought into the gifts because she only has a few decisions to make, and I suspect she bargains for a discount because she is ordering so many of the same thing. Last year, I took a cue from my aunt and got all the adults on my list cashmere scarves. I chose a color and a pattern to suit the specific person's tastes. Everyone loved them! A few years ago, I found a wonderful and unique toy that spanned many age groups. So, every kid on my list got that toy. It was a hit!

3) choose a theme. If you don't want to give the same gift to everyone, then choose a theme. Maybe everyone gets board games this year, or books, or sweaters, or gift baskets. This gives you the flexibility to personalize the gift to the specific recipient, yet still have some structure to simplify the buying process.

4) start a tradition. Another of my aunts gives everyone ornaments every year. They are always specifically chosen to have meaning for the recipient. She writes our name and the year on the bottom of the ornament. As kids, we always looked forward to what ornament we would get. We would open our present from this aunt on Christmas Eve and would each choose a special spot on the tree for our new ornament. Now, as an adult, I have a wonderful collection of ornaments that represent each year of my life. It's a very special gift, yet very easy to implement. The cache of this gift is in the tradition of it. It's something to look forward to every year.

5) gift baskets. Whether you make the gift baskets yourself, or buy them, gift baskets are always an easy gift. I like to start with a store-bought basket as a base and add a few additional items that are chosen or made specifically for the recipient. Then, I re-wrap it with fancier wrapping and a nicer bow. I find this a bit easier and less expensive than assembling a basket from scratch, yet it still has that personal touch. Another nice way to up-scale a basket is to replace the basket filler material with scented potpourri.

For those people to whom I just need to send a nice gift basket, I always use Wine Country Gift Baskets. They sell a wide variety of affordable baskets that are really nice. (This is an honest plug. I don't get any kickback from them. I've been using them for years, and they've always been great.)

What are your tricks for simplifying your holidays?

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