It’s not too early to start Christmas shopping. In fact, some of you might already be done shopping for the holidays. Starting earlier means spending less money, finding gifts people really want or need, and seriously cutting the stress during the holiday height.
Christmas is not about the gifts, and it’s much easier to avoid the “I wants” and the feeling of needing more and more if you don’t go shopping much during the season. There’s something about the stores that tempts well-meaning parents into feeling guilty for not getting the latest toy for their child, or enticing the innocent husband into blowing the budget on his wife.
You don’t necessarily need to go on a single-minded mission to the stores, but keep Christmas gifts in the back of your head when you’re already there. If you can finish your list before the stores start playing holiday music, then you’ve done a great job.
Here are a few tips to make Christmas gift shopping less stressful.
1. Make a List
Don’t ever go gift shopping without a list. Ever, ever, ever. You will more than likely buy more than you intended. List the people for whom you’re buying, jot down a few gift ideas next to their name, and cross them off when their gift is purchased.
Keep this list with you at all times. That way, it’s readily available when an unexpected gift idea pops into your head.
2. Set Limits on People
This is a touchy subject. At what point do you stop buying presents for your extended family? Or is it an eternal tradition in your clan?
Because Christmas isn’t about the gifts, at some point families need to just put a stop to the stuff. It’s definitely easier said than done in some families, because there inevitably will be a sister-in-law or a dad who doesn’t want to stop the gift exchange.
If your family is like this, are you up for being the one to call a hiatus on the tradition? If so, here are a few ideas for broaching the subject tactfully:
Do it gradually.
Maybe instead of stopping a gift exchange all together, suggest a reasonable cost limit for this year. After a few years of this, perhaps the adults might be more open to ending completely.
Suggest drawing names over Thanksgiving, so that each person only needs to buy for one other person. This doesn’t always help that much, however. On one side of our family’s case, if my husband and I each drew a name, we’d be buying two gifts instead of four. A little better, for sure, but we’re still spending.
A homemade gift created specifically for someone is more treasurable than a big box store purchase. We’ll share homemade gift ideas in this series soon, but for now, think sewing, an mp3 playlist, or a task like babysitting.
3. Set Limits on Quantity
Decide in advance how many gifts to buy each person in your family, and stick with it. In our family, the children receive three from Mom and Dad because Jesus received three. Well, that’s debatable, and it doesn’t really matter that much, but it’s our way of curbing the overflow under the tree. And it works for our kids, because it’s all they’ve ever known.
For the adults, the amount changes from year to year, but we do mutually agree in advance. Last year, my husband and I got each other one larger gift each (iPods). This year, we’re going with one small gift per person, probably a book or a DVD. We’re going on a family vacation in November, so we decided that’s the bulk of our gift to each other.
4. Shop Online
When you shop online, you avoid the crowds, it’s easier to stick within your budget (no enticing last-minute purchases made at the register), and you have endless options. I love supporting cottage industries and the handmade community, so my preference is most definitely online. Plus, a one-stop shipping option means no waiting in line at the post office.
My favorite places to shop are Etsy and Amazon. I know Amazon isn’t a small business by any means, but it sure is handy — they’ve got everything, and they’ve got a good return policy. Plus, shipping if often free when you spend more than $25. And I could spend hours browsing at Etsy — I love the fact that each gift bought is unique, thoughtfully crafted, and quite often made from quality, non-toxic materials.
There are thousands of other small businesses you could support this Christmas by purchasing through them. In the next few weeks, you’ll see their logo on Simple Mom — be sure to click over and browse each one.
Ready to start shopping for Christmas presents?
How do you handle the gift exchange in your extended family? Do you have a favorite store (online or brick-and-mortar) from which to shop for Christmas gifts?