Saving Time: On Christmas Gifts

by Robin

It's that time of year again.  The store shelves have been cleared of the Halloween candies and Black Friday has come and gone.  The stores are loudly proclaiming: It is time to start buying a bunch of crap for the people you love!  Aside from the omnipresent buy-buy-buy message this time of year, I do truly love getting gifts for the people I love.

The anticipation of the expression of surprise or joy on their face just fills me with tingles.  When my gift falls short of this, I feel a bit down, but with enough planning and forethought, this usually doesn't happen.

I can't lay total claim to my Christmas Shopping Strategy.  Someone else beat me to it.  Basically, I make a list and I check it twice.  More specifically I make a chart in Word or Google Docs and we plan.  This thinking ahead approach leads us to buy gifts that fit the person, fit our budget and fit our busy schedules.

Here's how we get through the holiday shopping stress-free:

Step 1 - Make a list.
This step is obvious but essential.  If your list is incomplete you will get caught short.  It's embarrassing when someone you weren't expecting to gives you a gift and you've got a whole lot of nothing for them.  I learned a great trick from a neighbour (when we gave them a gift they weren't expecting).  It's a smart idea to have tucked away a couple of bottles of nice wine in a pretty gift bag to give to those unexpected gifters (unless your surprise gifter is a kid you coach or something - that will take you on the fast train to trouble).

So, back to the list.  Each year I open the list from the year before.  I just did this now, and I felt relief, there are always people that slip my mind and by opening last year's list I remember.  Here're some folks to consider:
  • people who help you out: babysitter, housekeeper, neighbours, co-workers
  • people who help your children: teachers, volunteer group leaders, 
  • your extended/step family: especially those members that you see only at Christmas gatherings (it can avoid awkwardness to have something for them in your pocket that you can pull out at the right time, if needed)
  • people who gave you something last year - and then you felt awkward.  (My best tip here is to add them to your Christmas list right after it happens so you are reminded when you open the file next year.)
  • friends (where appropriate)
  • family
  • your kids (I debated adding them to the list, it seemed too obvious.  Has anyone's children, in the history of time and space, ever let them forget what they wanted for Christmas?)

Step 2 - Stop & Think.  Make a Plan.
Let your list simmer on your brain's back-burner for awhile.  Keep your eyes and ears open to what they would like.  

At our place, we make a three column chart like this (Mrs. Claus was kind enough to share hers with us): 

Mrs Claus’ Christmas List 2011: 
Gift Idea
Leopard print thong, size XXL

Charitable donation to OXFAM or Lottery Tix

DDR 3 for Xbox – include dance mat

gift certificate for a hoof-icure
Southern Getaway tix (Ice Hotel?) with Cupid
Telescope or some other nerdy, science thing

Southern Getaway tix (Ice Hotel?) with Vixen
Cookbook: Reindeer 101, Joy of Cooking or anything by Michael Pollan.

Game of Thrones Season 1 DVD

Blended Scotch – he says he can tell the difference, but he can’t.

Elf employees (27)
Movie passes (redeem Santa’s Air Miles to get them)
(Clearly you can see why Santa chooses the gifts for children: Mrs. Claus's choices are terrible!

Step 3 - Focus Your Ideas & Shop Around.
This is where the savings can be found.  Once you've narrowed down your ideas you can comparison shop.  Watch the flyers.  Look around online.  Find the gift you have in mind at the best price.  I vastly prefer online shopping for most purchases, Christmas shopping in particular.  After a busy day at work it is the best feeling to walk up to the front door and see boxes there saying, "Put your feet up, hon, your Christmas shopping is done."  (After a long day I tend to hallucinate.)

Step 4 - Know When You're Done.
It feels so good to check off the "Done" column and have a visual of how close you are.  It also can help to prevent those impulse purchases (you know, when you wait in line at the store and you see that random thing that you think would suit so-and-so.  You buy it and then find you've already got something for them when you went to wrap).  Recording in your chart also helps to remind you what you have left to pick up.

How do you save your time and sanity with holiday shopping?  We'd love to hear some tips!

1 comment

  1. I forgot to give credit where it was due. I was feeling pretty un-funny and gave Ed the job of making the Christmas gift list for Mrs. Claus. You can thank or blame him...


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