So, yeah – maybe it’s not the point of Christmas but…I’m betting trying to play Santa sucks up a lot of your Christmas energy.
And maybe a little of your Christmas spirit?(*1)
Before you go thinking I’m the Grinch, I’m not (although I’ve been told on occasion my heart is a bit on the snug side).
Not Wally O’Crazy. Wall Is His Younger, Fatter Half-Brother Who Drinks.
I love giving Christmas gifts.
But some years, gift-giving stress can be the final brick in the Christmas wall o’crazy . For instance, like:
- When my extended family embarked on all-out hunt through my house on Christmas Eve in search of an errant $60 Xbox game that, in the end, was tucked neatly under the tree skirt.
Nothing like carefully cleaning the company parts of your house for a party, only to have a month’s worth of clutter-stashing exposed to the world.
- When Walmart.com lost my husband’s big gift.
Walmart.com customer service.
- When, after enduring a 3-hour-long line to buy the latest video game console, we realized none of the kids were even interested in it.
Ugh, where is that receipt?
- When I noticed well after the fact that the $100 Game Stop card part of a Nintendo Switch bundle never showed up.
Wait, did I save the paperwork?
- Or when I routed a special surprise for my son to my parents’ house, knowing it would be shipped in original packaging. I picked it up (go me!), only to leave it in the trunk for him to stumble upon while searching for jumper cables.
Moms Are Allowed, Per the Law of HolidayOverloadForgiveness, Article 1225, As Ordered by the Court Of WhyDoesMomBuyAlltheGifts?, One Freak-Out Per Christmas Season. Two If They Are Hosting.
Of course, none of these incidents ruined Christmas.
But I’ll (sheepishly) admit my ensuing freak-outs and meltdowns may have taken a bit of the tinsel off the tree.
Then there are the inboxes overflowing with confusing coupons, discounts, time-sensitive deals, free shipping offers, and “best price of the year” claims.
I mean, how am I supposed to make a decision with all that noise going on?
Oh, and don’t forget the emails, texts, and calls from everyone and their brother(*2) desperately seeking gift ideas for the kids.
I don’t even know what I’m buying them yet! Wait, now I remember – Sally asked for a new dishwasher and Bobby mentioned a week’s vacation at your house. No, for real.
All of which leads me to this post, the first in a mini-series(*3) with tons of tips and ideas to keep the gift-giving part of Christmas more:
“Golly gee! Thanks, Mom and Dad! How did you know this was exactly what I wanted?!!”
“Merry Christmas, I stayed up all night wrapping, I’m on my fourth pot of coffee, and you better freaking appreciate me or I’m going to break down in tears right here, right now.”
It’s Okay, Puddles Doesn’t Really Need To Go Outside. I’m Sure He Can Hold It.
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I wrote these tips as a three-part series but am publishing them all at the same time. This way, you can take a break to let the dog out between posts.
Or just binge them.
- This first post, Part 1, helps with planning who gets what. It’s pretty basic, so if you have that one covered, you can probably skim it. Or skip it.
Sure, why not? I mean, my feelings will be crushed, but I’ll probably get over it.
- Part 2 is stuffed with tips to keep you organized and on top of all those boxes, bags, and packages.
- And Part 3 takes you to the finish line.
You Know What They Say…De-Nial May Be a River In Egypt, But It Sounds Like a Great Place To Hide Until Christmas Is Over.
Okay, before we do anything else, let’s see who we even have to buy for in the first place.
I know, it’s overwhelming to think of everyone who’s vying for a place on your gift list. It’s tempting to just let a couple of names leak into your head here and there and pretend you don’t have a million people on your list.
Deny deny deny.
But winging it doesn’t make them go away – it just adds stress later when you’re scrounging for money and time to buy the overlooked gifts.
Probably more of both than you would have spent if you’d planned ahead.
And you’ll also have that low level hum of anxiety all season, wondering who and what you forgot.
- So, instead of handling Christmas gift-giving in a piecemeal fashion or trying to keep it all in your head, make a list of everyone you’ll need to buy for.
Maybe you already do this, but if you don’t, just do it. No more denial.
Plus they celebrate Christmas on the Nile, anyway.(*4)
If you need help remembering who to buy for, see if any of these possibilities ring a bell.
- Close family and their significant others
- Extended family
- Gifts from the kids to other people
- Co-workers and bosses
- People in organizations you belong to
- Volunteers who coach or lead your kids in their activities
- Service workers, such as mailmen, hair dressers, manicurists
- Kids’ friends
- Gift exchanges, such as Secret Santa, class gifts, and white elephants(*5)
- Hostess gifts
- Generic gifts to keep on hand just in case (you know, the ones you keep eating and having to replace?)
That many?! Boy, you really do buy for a lot of people!
Maybe you should put your head back in the sand and deal with it later.
- Once you know who you’re buying for, put the list in an order that helps you wrap your brain around it.
I arrange mine by the type or level of the gift I’m buying. You might arrange yours by amount you’re spending, priority of the gift, or how much you like the recipient (hey, if it helps).
My list is arranged by who gets:
- Multiple gifts and/or really big gifts
- One or two nicer, personal gifts
- One or two less expensive or token “appreciation” gifts (less personal)
- Homemade food or bath product gifts
- Gifts from the kids (i.e., affordable on a very small allowance)
- Batch gifts (like when you impulsively decide to make beautiful, hand-embroidered mini-stockings for 40 people at work and then, by the time Christmas rolls around, you’re stuffing Hershey’s kisses into 40 plastic bags and calling it done)
- Special notes/cards
Include people under multiple categories as necessary. Like if they get a gift and a box of cookies. Or multiple gifts and a stocking.
- Circle or highlight anyone who gets their gift before Christmas Day, so you remember what needs to be ready early.
Here’s a peek at part of my (slightly sanitized to protect the innocent) list:
- Keep this list in Evernote or elsewhere in the cloud so you have instant access and also don’t have to start from scratch next year. Seriously, this way you won’t lose it.
The Cloud Is a Flaky Mom’s Best Friend. If Only You Could Remember the Password.
Now that you know who you’re buying for, make a master idea list. Keep this list in the cloud, too.
You + Cloud = Actually being able to find it next year.
- To get some ideas, first check any old lists (yes, in the cloud – see how easy that was?)
Then when you have someone impossible to buy for who also doesn’t like to provide lists until you beg on your hands and knees, *cough* my mother-in-law *cough* you can send her last year’s hard-earned list to see if it sparks any new ideas.
Or to see if she’s okay with yet another bird feeder (hey, it was on the list that one year, maybe she won’t mind?)
- Keep an eye out for gifts during the year. Maybe too late this year, but keep it in mind for next.
- If you buy them when you see them, check out the next post to keep them from getting lost before Christmas. But not yet, Miss Clicky-Fingers – we’ll get there.
- If you’re not ready to buy when you see them, then:
- Take photos while you’re in the store and email them to yourself.
- If the idea is in a magazine or catalogue, take a photo of the page and email it to yourself. Don’t forget the name of the catalogue.
- If it’s an idea in your head, write out the idea in an email and send it to whom? Yourself. Now you’re getting it.
- By the way, when you send yourself these ideas, include who they’re for, especially if you have kids with similar interests. Like if you have two boys who both love Star Wars and one asks for a life-size cardboard cutout of Princess Leia, you may forget who asked for it by the time Christmas rolls around.(*6)
- And use special key words in the email so you can find it easily (for more about this tip, check out the post I wrote on using keywords in your email). I use “Christmas YYY” (without the quotes).
Do not just use the word “Christmas.” Please don’t. You’ll have so many other emails in your inbox that have the word “Christmas” in them by December!
You Know, All the Stuff You’ll Want To Declutter Later…
- Keep track of special events, milestones, and happenings throughout the year. Email them to yourself as they happen so you don’t forget them (use the keyword idea above). These are instant gift idea fodder – personalized ornaments, t-shirts, stuffed animals, knick-knacks, etc.
Here are some ideas I’ve commemorated at Christmas with personal gifts:
- Driver’s license (received, not suspended or revoked – that’s another gift idea altogether)
- Earning Eagle Scout
- Special trips
- New hangouts
Like the craft brew place we made a regular haunt and I commemorated with an ornament decorated with their logo – because nothing says Happy Birthday Jesus like an ornament with a bar logo.
- New house
- Wedding vow renewal
- A new sport or instrument or hobby
- Winning an award or contest
- A new career or internship
- A baby
- Boot camp
- Netflix binge bonding
I give my husband ornaments each year with the latest series we binged together, as a reminder of all the time we should have been doing something else.
- New puppy (aww)
- Awesome homemade Halloween costume
- A weekend trip to Boston to see the Downton Abbey exhibit
- Broadway show
- Our new deck, in memory of lots of fun times on it (and not in memory of all the spats we had building it)
- Start a preference sheet in Evernote for each person on your list who gets personal gifts. Include:
- Favorite authors
- Favorite music
- Favorite characters
- Clothing / shoe sizes
- Favorite foods and candies (a gold mine for fillers and stockings – and even to peek at come Easter)
Come on, help a Bunny out…
- If they get a traditional gift (like the annual addition to my son’s nutcracker collection), put it on there too.(*7)
The preference sheet can get you going down a great idea-generating rabbit hole on Amazon, Etsy, Ebay, ThinkGeek, etc. Each time you search for something, more stuff pops up! I usually have to restrain myself from rabbit-holing, so it’s kind of fun to have a reason to start clicking and see where it leads me.
Although It’s Definitely Okay to Mail Your Own List To Santa, At Least. Because You Never Know…
- Once you’ve made a master idea list, time to organize it. Break it up into:
- Stocking stuffers
- Must-haves (A)
- Probably-gets (B)
- Backups (C)
Sorting out the ideas makes it easier to:
- Make more informed money decisions and
- Have ideas ready to share when you start getting those generous but pressure-laden requests.
For example, I give my mother-in-law A ideas, because I know she’ll buy exactly what I tell her (if she doesn’t outright buy the gifts directly from me, as usually happens).
But I would give my oldest son a B or C idea, because he also likes to shop on his own and may not buy what I suggest.
I think he only asks to stress me out. He’s good that way.
If you share an idea with someone, note it on the list.
- And finally, keep an idea sheet for yourself. I’m not saying make some ginormous list and mail it to twenty people in October, whether they asked for it or not. But pay attention to things you’d like to have and don’t want to buy for yourself. That will make it easier on people who buy for you.
In other words, don’t be like *cough* my mother-in-law *cough*
If you’d like to see a post on my favorite things to get organized that I’ve purchased or received through the years, let me know below.
I’m Lying. I Never Actually Ran Out of Salt On Christmas Eve. It Was Pepper.
Honestly, in spite of the stress, I do love giving Christmas gifts.
Even when the reality doesn’t always match my fantasy.
Even when I’m knee deep in clean-out-closets-so-our-company-doesn’t-know-we’re-hoarders-how-do-i-avoid-Uncle-Mel-this-year-you-have-to-defrost-turkey-for-how-long-now?-really?-where-did-I-put-the-scotch-tape-darn-I-forgot-the-train-table-got-broken-in-storage-last-spring-I-didn’t-budget-for-6-extra-dinner-guests-no-you-can’t-spend-Christmas-Eve-at-your-friend’s-house-where-is-that-Arthur-Christmas-DVD-if-we-don’t-watch-it-this-year-Little-Man-will-lose-his-cotton-pickin’-3-year-old-mind-how-did-i-run-out-of-salt-on-Christmas-Eve-of-all-things?!! mode.(*8)
I’m not going to pretend I view each Christmas-gift fail as an opportunity for growth and enrichment. At least not right when it happens. At that moment, mostly I view it as another reason to escape to the Bahamas next November and not show back up until February.
But once I’ve gotten over myself, I do usually learn a lesson or two.(*9) And figure out a way to prevent future anxiety.
So, So Many More Words. I’ve Got Words For Days.
So now that you know who you’re buying for and have some idea of what to get, I have more words on another page. And those words form sentences (well, sentence fragments, anyway – I can only imagine my high school English teacher reading this blog) with tips and tricks to keep track of what you’ve bought, remember where you’ve stored it, and make a plan to get it to the right people on time.
And conveniently, I have a link right here you can click to get there.
See, always looking out for you.
Oh, and don’t forget to let Puddles out. Probably a good idea, assuming his name has a backstory.
(*1) I’m picturing the sled fuel gauge from Elf taking a plunge each time I lose a Christmas receipt.
(*2) Literally their brother. He’s grown and on his own, so now he’s an asker.
(*3) Not like a cool TV miniseries, this is a mini-series (notice the hyphen) of posts so I don’t dump 6,000 words on you in one fell swoop because I want you to still love me and hug me (just not too close, I don’t know where you’ve been – kidding – but seriously, not too close) when you see me on the street and not cross to the other side.
(*4) Don’t believe me?
(*5) In case you don’t know, White Elephant/Dirty Santa is that office party game where you choose from a pile of gifts, 60% of which are alcohol, 39% are re-gifted, and, apparently, if my husband’s office is any indication, 1% are 10-year-old moldy pickle.
(*6) Although if you have boys who really love Star Wars and one asks for a life-size cardboard cutout of Princess Leia instead of Death Star Legos, you probably can’t forget which boy it is, even if you try.
(*7) But not if it’s a 10-year-old moldy pickle – enough already.
(*8) Just a quick glimpse inside my head. And my holiday dinner guests sometimes wonder why “Joni is so calm and quiet out there making dinner” – um, because there’s not enough of anything left to run the outside of my face and body?
(*9) In my defense, I’m not at my best when I have a frozen turkey in the oven, Uncle Mel regaling me with his theory on “why America’s going to hell in a hand basket,” and a tear-soaked toddler in my family room, grudgingly watching Tim Allen as Santa, clearly a weak Arthur substitute who most certainly “does not fly in a spaceship to deliver Christmas gifts, Mommy!” By the way, if you have never seen Arthur Christmas, I highly recommend watching it this season.