Christmas Planning: The Gifts

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Have you perfected your imitation of the Christmas Goose, scurrying to and fro without rest as soon as December 1 hits the calendar? Do you find yourself traipsing through the mall for the perfect present, despite the crowds, your whining children, and a splitting headache? Are moderation and forethought new concepts for you?

Perhaps it just depends on the year. Maybe you’ve been a silly goose some years and had great years when everything came together without so much as a sweat. Either way, make this year one of those simple ones by thinking through your gift giving a little in advance.

Make a Budget
It goes without saying that you need to have a financial plan for your holiday shopping. If you don’t, nothing will stop you from going overboard. And overboard is no fun. If you set an allowance for gifts, you’ll know when to stop. Save your receipts so that you can take back something if you overdo before you’ve covered everyone on the list. Don’t be afraid of returns. It’s your money.

Make Gifts Count
How many times have you given (or received) a gift that was obviously just a token? Often those presents are the ones that hit the shelves of the thrift store first. If you’re going to go to the expense and effort of gift giving, make it one that will be enjoyed and used on the receiving end. Be discerning when making your list in the first place. Use care in who to gift. You really don’t need to give a gift to everyone you know. Really.

Remember Experiences Matter
That said, think about giving an experience rather than a thing. A dinner out and a free night of babysitting will please most parents I know. Consider tickets to a special game or event, a season’s pass to a museum or amusement park, or a gift card to the movie theatre as an alternative to another tie or sweater.

Consider Handmade
Gifts you make yourself certainly show forethought. And if you plan well enough in advance you can prepare something really special. Personalized photo albums, baking mixes paired with homemade jam, and spa kits are fun gifts to put together that be elegant luxuries. Browse back issues of Martha Stewart Living for inspiration. You may not do exactly what Martha does, but the ideas in the magazine may spark a great creation of your own making.

Find Good Deals
Starting early will help you have the time and clear thoughts to find the best prices on gifts. Shopping around will help you know the going rate. Browsing thrift stores and garage sales through the summer and fall can be a leisurely way of stocking your arsenal of gifts. Summer clearance items can be repurposed into gifts as can school supplies. Sand pails make great gift bags. Canning jars are more available during the summer season. Keep your eyes open and your creative juices flowing. Summer may offer great inspiration.

Let the Internet Work For You
Good deals abound on the world wide web. Sign up with Ebates for cash back on purchases at your favorite stores. Searching the net with swagbucks will earn you points that you can trade in for cool prizes and gift cards. Using RetailMeNot will help you find coupon codes for hundreds of online merchants. As the holiday gets closer and you’re ready to ship, pay a few dollars for gift wrapping and avoid a lot of hassle. Yes, it’s cheaper to do it yourself, but your time — and your sanity — are worth something. Let the internet simplify things for you.

Remember Enough Is As Good As A Feast
If you dejunked your home prior to the holiday, you realize that there is very little that your family actually needs. We live in a society of excess. Don’t go buy stuff just so there’s something to open. Hello? Have you thought about that?

Some would say that it isn’t Christmas unless there’s a heap of presents under the tree. Certainly, it would be a big fat bummer not to have a gift or two to open. But, as the Grinch himself learned, it’s not the presents, the toys, or even the noise that make the day special. Christmas is something much more.

Whatever you do, remember that Christmas doesn’t come from a store.

Do you have a gift-giving tradition? How do you make presents more meaningful at your house?


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  1. We give 4 gifts to each kid. Something they want, something they need, something to wear, and something to read. It keeps the gifts meaningful, managable, and memorable!

  2. We have friends who've always gone with the three gifts rule. Three gifts for each child. It's what Jesus got, so it's good for their kids too. Granted, sometimes one of the gifts is big (a bike, etc.), but there are only 3.

  3. Excellent post! Our tradition is that most of our family, both my side and the in-laws get homemade jam and baked goodies from us.

    We used to spend so much money on gifts for the in-laws just because everyone was doing it. My side, on the other hand, is all about homemade and/or gifts with meaning.

    I LOVE to make jam, and one year, I decided to give a few jars of jam to each of the in-laws. They were THRILLED! We gave nieces and nephews giftcards until last year, when I told them that they were now adults and were getting gifts from my kitchen. They, too, were THRILLED.

    My family was always thrilled with the homemade, but now I send varieties of jam that they don't make themselves, so they get something different.

    Now, if we could just make ourselves give our adult kids gifts from the kitchen. LOL! We give a little cash and give the grandbabies toys, but we don't go overboard with either and the money is already set aside for both.

  4. I love this post.

    I shop all year around to find good deals on Christmas gifts and put them in plastic tubs in a closet. It helps me find meaningful/fun presents for everyone without spending the fortune I don't have.

    This Christmas I'm hoping to make gifts for some of my friends and family. I'm learning how to knit and may make sets of cards with my scrapbooking/stamping stuff, etc. I will also make some homemade goodies like cashew brittle.