I think gift giving can be stressful! I am always on the search for the "perfect" gift, but usually don't find it in time. Well, the past couple of years I have been trying to change gears in order to relieve this big headache. My first 5 tips involve gift giving ideas to try.
1. Plan Ahead. This one sounds simple. No, I don't mean start planning as soon as Christmas ends the previous year. If that approach works for you, then by all means go for it. I try to formulate my game plan in September or October. This is when I decide what to get people. Since most of the adults in our family have most of what they need, we keep things simple and personalized for them. I divide gifts up into 3 categories, friends & coworkers, family adults, and family children. I then pick gifts for each of those groups. Also factor in at least one random gift for "White Elephant" gift exchanges. This planning goes along way to keep me from getting frazzled later.
2. KISS (Keep it simple stupid). One year after carting home multiple boxes of "stuff" I told my DH that I wanted to simplify gifts. I had so much stuff that I didn't really need. Some great things, but other things that were destined for donation. I decided that I didn't want to do that to anyone else either, so I started making several of our gifts. One year I paired apple butter and home-made mustard with a fresh loaf of our favorite hand-made wheat bread. This allows for people to eat it and not need to find room in their house for another trinket.
3. Make It With Love. I adore hand-made gifts. I don't have lots of free time, but still enjoy giving things to people that are unique and made by me. I always treasure those knitted blankets, quilts, or framed photos. Shutterfly has a great selection of ideas to share with family. Make the grandparents a photo book of the past year, or use Cafe Press to have a sweatshirt made up. And if you are not the creative type, look no further than Etsy for a wide variety of options you can have someone else make, but still customize.
4. Try Drawing Numbers. If you have a large family, think about having everyone draw numbers for gift giving. This helps everyone to cut down on the number of items they have to buy... and therefore the stress involved. Decide with your family if you want to set a price limit.
5. Hit The Sales. I love buying toys for the kids in my life, but it can add up quickly. It is nice to remember that many stores clear their shelves in the fall to make room for the big holiday toy rush. I found a Duplo barn set at half off for my son by watching the sale shelves of Walmart. And Toys R Us is currently selling several classic board games for $1 - $3 after rebate. I was sure to stock up and got 3 toddler classics for $5 total.
But, gift giving is not the only area where we can become stressed. Food does it too!
6. Bake Smarter, Not Harder. One of the best ways to cover the baking is to become involved in a cookie exchange party. I did this at my former job. Everyone brought 2 dozen of their favorite cookies and left with a great assortment of items. Of course, you don't have to limit this to cookies! Try muffins you can freeze, or anything else that can keep till the holidays. If you can't find a group, how about creating your own?
7. Menu Planning. Think about the different dishes you want to create for the holidays. Look for items you can make ahead of time, too. A breakfast casserole or strata will free up time on Christmas morning or the day after Thanksgiving. Many different appetizers can be prepped and frozen also. Then there are items like cranberry sauce that can be cooked and will stay in your fridge for a week. Just a little bit of planning can save you many headaches later on.
8. Get Everyone Involved. Even if you are the host, it doesn't mean you need to create the entire spread! Some of the best meals get everyone in the family involved. Ask your friends or family what their best holiday dish is and have them bring it. Of course you need to coordinate who's rolls make the list, but I bet you can delegate most of the edibles out to others freeing you up for the main course and decorating.
9. Shop By Day & Leave The Kiddos Home. The stores can become real zoos around the holidays. Even a quick trip to the grocery store can be crazy! The best way to navigate the aisles is during low traffic hours. The best time is during midday or in the morning. And to move even faster, find a friend or family member to watch the kids. Of course return the favor for them! It is hard to be a holiday shopping ninja with a toddler mid-melt down.
10. Get Take Out Boxes. This may sound odd, but you will probably have more food at your holiday gathering than you need. Why not buy take out boxes or containers for your family or friends to take some home with them. Don't loan out your Tupperware... instead either buy simple containers or paper boxes to send your guests off with a treat they don't need to return.
So, will any of those tips help you this holiday season? I know without these tricks I would be pulling my hair out to get everything accomplished. The biggest stresses for me are definitely gift giving and food preparation. Do you have any tips to add? How do you keep Zen-like demeanor amidst all the hustle and bustle?
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