Is it me, or is the Christmas season starting earlier every year?
Halloween was barely over before the Christmas decorations and the pre-Christmas sales started appearing in the stores in my community. Santa arrived in mid-November at one of our local malls, and was escorted to the place where he’ll sit from now until December 24, so kids can tell him what they want for Christmas.
Personally, I enjoy going out to the stores and malls to shop during the holidays. I even enjoy taking my five kids with me! I make it an event and have fun. I enjoy the music, the sights, the smells, the deals, and the people.
My wife, and millions of others, on the other hand, would prefer to never set foot in the mall again until all the Christmas decor has been packed away.
For many, Christmas shopping and gift giving adds a lot of stress to their lives. They hate the crowds in the stores, the pressure to find the “perfect” gift, and the expectation to spend a certain amount of money on each person on their list.
Here are 13 ways you can cut down the stress and simplify shopping and gift giving this holiday season:
If you must shop at the mall or certain “big box” stores, shop at off-peak hours. You can call the store and ask them what time-frame they would recommend.
Shop at arts and craft fairs. You’re sure to find unique (and maybe even custom-made and personalized) gifts for that special someone.
Buy from stores or organizations that feature fair-trade gifts made by artisans in the developing world, like Ten Thousand Villages. The artisans are paid a living wage and proceeds from sales go to help other would-be artisans get started.
Instead of buying a gift, give a donation in that person’s honor to a charity or cause you or they care about.
Instead of buying gifts for your family, plan a special trip, event or activity that the entire family will enjoy. That’s what our family is doing this year!
Shop online. The Monday after American Thanksgiving is known as “Cyber Monday,” the biggest online shopping day of the year. This is a great way to beat the crowds! And you often get free shipping. I’m continually amazed at how much stuff you can buy at Amazon.com. It’s not just for books anymore!
Give gift certificates/gift cards. You never have to worry about picking the right size or color! You can buy them at most any retailer, or online.
Take advantage of pre-holiday sales now. Seems like every major retailer is advertising “lowest prices of the season.”
Be sure to set a budget. Decide in advance how much you are going to spend, and don’t go into debt! Sadly, so much stress is created in January once those credit card bills start coming in.
If you’re out of work, or don’t have as much to spend on Christmas gifts as you have in the past, don’t be afraid to let people know. You would do yourself and them a favor if you adjusted their expectations in advance.
If you typically buy gifts for your entire family – your kids, nephews and nieces, aunts and uncles, grandma and grandpa, etc. – ask if you can draw names this year instead. My wife’s family decided to start doing this a few years ago, and it saved us all a lot of money and headache! Each person’s name goes in a box or a hat. Then each person draws a name and buys a gift for that person, instead of a gift for everyone.
Give white elephant gifts at your family or company Christmas party. This is a great (and no-cost) way to have fun and slough off something you’d love to get rid of. And who knows, you just might get something you could actually use!
Here’s a great gift-giving alternative for families and for companies: Ask people to pitch in together to donate money to a charity or cause you care about, instead of buying gifts for each other. I’ve known companies that matched whatever their employees donated. And I’ve known families that have given to the same charity year after year.