I love the holidays. But I tend to get a little stressed out this time of year. Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy getting together with family and friends, decorating the Christmas tree, going to cookie exchange parties, giving to charity and even putting jingle bells on my dog. I live for snowball fights with my husband and kids and racing inside for a well-deserved hot cocoa.
I have the best of intentions when it comes to holiday shopping. I start a list and get all excited. It’s not that I hate shopping. Give me a couple hours in a department store with girlfriends and I can literally shop until I drop. But the real problem renders its ugly head the moment I start second guessing myself with my choices.
Do these inner holiday-shopping thoughts sound familiar?
“Did I buy this for her last year?’
“Is this too much? or not enough?”
“Will he REALLY like this?”
“Come on. Don’t buy a gift card. Don’t buy a gift card. Maybe he would appreciate a gift card?”
Enough already! Why can’t we host a White Elephant gift exchange like I've done with girlfriends in years past, where we literally pick items from around the house (or re-gift funny or lame gifts) and swap them over wine and cheese? We giggle the night away.
I would carry on this tradition in our home, but it obviously wouldn’t work when the kids are waiting for Santa to come to town with real gifts.
Here are some sanity-saving holiday shopping tips that we can all use this time of year:
- Don't go overboard with gift-giving. Remember, it's the thought that counts. Set a gift-giving budget that makes sense for your family.
- Think outside of the Big box. If you don't know what to buy for someone, stay away from Big Box stores and visit local shops. In Barrington, you can find treasures at shops like Hollies, Barrington Books, Daisy Dig Ins, and Grasmere.
- Give homemade cookies as gifts. Make a few dozen batches of holiday cookie dough. Bake the cookies with your kids and place them in decorative baskets, boxes or tins. These make thoughtful gifts for teachers, neighbors, friends and relatives. Tie it with special ribbon to add a Martha-Stewart-like touch.
- Don't forget to shop online. The Internet is your friend this time of year. But never leave your computer open to gift-giving web sites or you'll spoil the fun. Either pin favorite items on Pinterest.com or email yourself specific web sites so you don't forget what's on your list.
- Start a new gift-giving tradition. Talk to family members about starting a Secret Santa gift exchange to lessen the stress. We do this with our family and set a specific price limit which forces you to be creative and be respective of everyone's budgets.
- Make something homemade. If you can't paint a picture or knit a sweater, try this on for size - a New Year Memory Jar. This is something we do for my mother-in-law. Materials: One empty preserves jar, a bow and 365 small pieces of paper. Divide the papers evenly throughout your family. Each family member (especially the young ones) writes a special or funny saying, message or memory on each piece of paper. The recipient can enjoy opening a new message every day of the new year!
- Host a Yankee Swap. Start a White Elephant or Yankee Swap gift exchange with friends. Invite them to your gift swapping party and enjoy the evening over wine and cheese dip. If this stresses you out, wait and do it in January!
- Take the pain out of holiday cards. Don't worry about taking a new family portrait for your holiday card every year. Use an existing family photo and create a card online using sites like TinyPrints.com, Shutterfly.com or Snapfish.com. You can also print existing photos and place them in ready-made photo cards available at local shops like Barrington Books. If you're having an extrememly busy year, take a break and send an email card to loved ones. Suprise them with a New Year's card instead!
Jackie Hennessey is a pr consultant and author of gift book, How to Spread Sanity on a Cracker. She blogs at www.ventingsessions.com. The native Texan lives in Barrington with her husband and two children.