[The views expressed in this post are my opinion.]
Less than a week from Thanksgiving and the holiday shopping buzz is in full effect. After Thanksgiving with family and enjoying a lovely meal stuffing our faces and taking a post-turkey nap - we skip, hop, jump out of our “fat pants” and high-tail it to our favorite stores to burn off that gravy and pumpkin pie, & do my favorite form of cardio: SHOPPING! It’s the season of giving and our modern economy and advertisers definitely like to make sure we are giving to our fullest. In November, if I miss checking the mail after one or two days, it looks as if I moved a month ago and forgot to forward my mail! It’s easy to get swept away in the sea of Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and all the deals in between OR completely blow your budget frantically shopping last-minute, grabbing anything still left in stock!
Below you’ll find a few tips of mine that I use to help me stay in control for holiday shopping and gift giving, and not get overwhelmed every time I set foot in a store or shop online.
1. LIST MAKING. Santa isn’t the only one who needs to work from a list. I make a couple of different lists, which sounds like more work than necessary, but trust me it helps maintain organization. My first list is usually an all encompassing, full list of gift recipients and gifts. This list includes gift ideas, budget, and final gift purchases. I do a separate list for my kids since they are my focus for the holidays and require the most organization. I utilize the Amazon wish list feature and throughout the year I add items that I think would make a good holiday gift. Then as the holidays approach I check the wish list to see if the item is still a good idea and if it’s selling for a good price! It helps keep track of all the times my kids say “I want that!”. I also have a Pinterest board to help track gift ideas, again, as I come across items that I might want to purchase around the holidays for someone (or even myself - see #4). So basically, the Santa principle applies, make a list and check it twice (or more in my case).
2. KID GIFTS. This tip will depend on the age of your children, but this generally applies to younger kids. For point of reference, I have a 6-year-old, 3-year-old, and 1 ½ year old. For now, I generally spend the least amount of money on the youngest, especially since he’s currently under 2 and much of the holiday goes over his head. I do try to have equal amounts of gifts to open. Fairness and equality for our family is key. My kids don’t really have an idea on the cost of items, so for them it’s all about the number of presents, which is why I try to make it an even amount for each. Before visiting Santa, each kid is allowed to ask Santa for three items. With parental “guidance” we figure out what these three items should be. That way we lower the risk of Santa getting the puppy or massively large (expensive) toy request.
Last year I bought each kid a personalized Santa sack that Santa delivers Christmas Eve. This has made gift organization and preparing very easy before Santa’s big arrival! Smaller gifts from Santa are put in each sack and then one larger gift is wrapped from Santa for under the tree. I always wrap each kid’s gift in different wrapping paper so I don’t have to worry about to/from tags or mixing up gifts. Gifts from parents get a different wrapping paper as well. Sometimes I have a harder time choosing wrapping paper than actual gifts! (You can find these personalized Santa sacks on Etsy. The seller I purchased ours from no longer makes them, but just search and you'll find something similar!)
The last trick I use for my kids’ gifts are printable Santa tags. I don’t quite have to worry yet about my kids recognizing my handwriting, but just to be safe (and frankly to make my life easier) I just print these FREE printable Santa gift tags and use them on the gifts for a nice added touch. You can download the printables here: https://www.livinglocurto.com/santa-tags-free/
3. STOCKINGS. I am not a stocking stuffer fanatic. Some people go crazy for stockings and if that's you, then you do you! Stockings for me are generally an after thought, so I keep it simple and follow in the footsteps of my own parents. A clementine fits perfectly in each stocking, a couple fun things from the dollar store, and some holiday Hershey kisses. I don’t wrap items in stockings (wrapping is one of my least favorite holiday activities), and I usually include just enough stuff to keep the kids happy long enough for my husband and I to grab a cup of coffee before tackling the main event under the tree.
Also, last year I found these awesome color-your-own stockings at Target and my kids loved decorating their own stocking! I think they were $3 each, and paid for themselves with the 30 minutes of peace they gave me!
*So far I have yet to come across them in stores, but I'm keeping my eye out!
4. BE YOUR OWN SANTA. When I’m tackling a long gift giving list and shopping for family and friends, I also make sure to grab myself one or two things to put under the tree for my own Christmas morning enjoyment. Sometimes it’s a simple candle or a new lip gloss, but these small little gifts to myself are a nice treat for all the work that goes into making the magic of Christmas happen in our home.
5. SHOPPING STRATEGY. There are different schools of thought on this. Some people shop all online without setting foot in a store. Who needs to tackle crowds on Black Friday when you can sit from the comfort of your own home, coffee in hand, and click “Add To Cart” until your list is complete? Others prefer to shop all in-store, for doorbusters, special in-store deals, and of course for the built-in workout. If you don’t mind potential crowds then holiday shopping in the stores may be the best choice for you.
Then you have the hard-core planners (people I truly admire) who purchase gifts throughout the year so they aren’t crazily shopping all at once around the holidays. If that works for you, then go for it! I unfortunately know myself all too well and fear that I would a) forgot about purchased gifts, b) not be able to save them until Christmas, or c) still end up shopping in the frenzy of holiday shopping (and sales), and ultimately spend more money than necessary. Know thyself when it comes to selecting your timeframe for any “do-ahead” shopping.
So that leaves me somewhere in between the first two types of holiday shoppers, and I think fairly representative of most shoppers. I partake in a mix of in-store shopping and online shopping. When online shopping I always make sure my order qualifies for free shipping and I am extra careful to double check shipment dates, because there is nothing worse than realizing your order won’t arrive until December 27th! On Amazon, I always filter to Prime before even looking at anything! When in-store shopping I always bring my list (back to #1 tip) - that way I don't overbuy for the holidays and I remember exactly what I'm looking for! I'm way too easily distracted in the stores and if I don't have my list it's a total free for all! So when you are gifted a pillow pet, candle, and random bag of trail mix...you know what happened...
6. MERRY & BRIGHT. The best tip and one I’m continually trying to implement myself, is to just take the holidays in stride and find time to enjoy the spirit of the season. We all know that gift giving is not the only part of the holidays, and the best part is the time with family and friends. So, whether you do cookie decorating, neighborhood caroling, gingerbread house making, or volunteer locally - make sure to enjoy all the wonderful traditions and activities of the season. Don’t let holiday shopping create stress that takes away from the merriment. I hope some of these tips will help you have a stress-free shopping and gift giving experience this holiday season!
*Also feel free to share your own tips in the comments section below!
*Affiliated links are included in this post for which I receive compensation for from any sales.