Most of our lives are filled to the max. Busy-ness is a badge of honor. We don’t have enough time to squeeze in meals, so we eat on the go. We don’t have time to talk so we text. We don’t have time to get together with friends, so we scroll social media to catch up. This has become a way of life for most of us. Then December arrives. We cram decorating, gift-shopping, holiday activities, social events, and family visits into our already full-to-the-brim schedules. Something has to give. Often it’s our attitudes, our health, and our budget.
Let’s not do Christmas that way, ok? We don’t have to! Check out my free mini-course, 5 Steps to A Stress-Free Christmas to help you gain control over the way you experience the holiday.
In the meantime, there’s one activity most of us engage in at this time of year that causes stress, busts our budget, and typically takes more time and attention than it needs to: gift-giving. In the interest of helping you streamline your holiday, here are ten things you can do to simplify Christmas gift-giving this year.
10 Ways to Simplify Christmas Gift Giving
1. Do It Early
A number of years ago, I started doing all my Christmas shopping on Black Friday. From my couch. By myself. With a steaming mug of hot chocolate, cozy slippers, and Christmas music of my own choosing playing in the background. We’ll talk about online shopping next (spoiler, I know, but an obvious thing to appear on this list) but for now, realize that I have all my shopping done before December even arrives! Early for you might be before Thanksgiving, early in December, or two weeks before you need gifts. I used to be a Christmas Eve shopper, so having my buying done in November is a miracle!
Getting your shopping done early means you’re free to enjoy your holidays without squeezing in the time for it and worrying about what you’re going to get all month. Get it all out of the way early and you’ll have more time to devote to it, fewer people in line, less traffic, and a better attitude. You’ll also give yourself more time to spend on other things when the holiday gets closer.
2. Shop Online
While I love buying local, I also dearly love the way Amazon and other online retailers have simplified my life. If you’re a die-hard local buyer (and I love that!), there are still plenty of things on this list for you, so skip over to the next one. But if you’re willing to spend your money online, you can be more efficient with your time, save money, and have a wider selection. I can save the time driving to and from my closest store (40-60 minutes), time driving or walking between stores, and there’s no way I can speed walk through the aisles as fast as my fingers can move on my keyboard. Not to mention that I can shop any time of day from anywhere I happen to be. Although I do not recommend shopping under the covers at 2 a.m. Strange things tend to show up on your doorstep from those weak moments.
3. Do it All at One Time
Rather than a dash-in stop every few days to grab something, set aside a single chunk of time for shopping and do it all at once. You can do this whether you shop online or off and it will still be beneficial. Your mind will be engaged in gift-buying mode, you’ll be prepared, and you’ll be far more efficient. Put it on your calendar (right now. Go ahead, I’ll wait) and plan ahead where you’re going and what you’re looking for.
4. Use Online Lists
Amazon lists have revolutionized gift-giving in my family. We have family members several states away and setting up Amazon lists for each of us has allowed us to shop quickly and easily and ship things directly to their home. Yes, you can certainly do that without Amazon lists, but having centralized lists for all of our kids just makes life easier. And that’s the point of this list…making life easier. If you don’t like Amazon, or want to use a service not generated by a particular store, here are a few other options:
Remember, one of the advantages of Amazon is that everyone’s list is in the same place, so look for group features in the services above if that’s important to you.
5. Use Apps
Since I mentioned some apps on the last item, let’s talk more about them. We all have easy access to our phones and there are plenty of apps to choose from to help simplify Christmas gift-giving. Here are apps that go beyond sharing lists that you might also find helpful:
Gift Planner (Free / iOS)
Santa’s Bag (Free / iOS)
The Christmas List ($2.99 / iOS)
Gifted ($2.99 / iOS)
Christmas Gift List (Free / Android)
Gift List Diary (Free / Android)
Christmas Gift List (Free / Android)
Apps to help you find deals:
Not exactly an app, but an online secret Santa generator (among other things): Elfster
Curated Gift sets of all kinds, shipped straight to your friend or loved one: Giftagram
Keep track of where all your online orders are with Slice. Seriously amazing for those of us with online shipping addictions. I mean habits. Well-controlled, healthy habits.
6. Single Store Strategy
If that list of apps left your head reeling, let’s tighten things up a bit again. One way to simplify Christmas gift-giving is to limit the stores you’re shopping in. Do all your shopping at Target, WalMart, Amazon, or Costco for the cover-all-the-bases kind of shopping. Interested in something more spendy or a little more unusual? Choose one clothing boutique, one interesting local artisan market, a museum gift store, or a more curated online shop like Uncommon Goods and buy things for your whole list with one visit.
7. Set (and Keep) Limits
Setting limits for yourself will help you in all areas of your giving. Set a budget that will help you handle your finances responsibly, then stick to it! If you struggle to keep a budget, take only your budgeted amount of cash out of the bank and shop locally with cash. If you’re an online shopper, buy gift cards for yourself in the total you want to spend and only use those.
Make lists of the gifts you’ll buy and don’t keep adding to it. Use an app mentioned above, a spreadsheet, or a journal and write down all the things you plan to buy so you don’t have to remember it all. Making a list will help you see areas you need more or fewer ideas.
Limit the types of items you’ll buy. Make life easy by getting everyone on your list the same thing or the same category. For example, everyone gets a book this year, or a scarf.
Choose to limit your gift-giving in the future by choosing recurring gifts. Order a subscription box or a magazine subscription. Choose a gift certificate for a theater or concert series that happens each year. Or, choose to buy the same item every year, like an outing with you, a hotel night, or a museum or zoo membership.
8. Create an Every-year Gift List
There are things I do each year that tend to fall through the cracks. They also add up if I’m not careful to include them in my budget. Teacher gifts, gifts for service providers (music or dance instructors, sports coaches, Scout leaders, stylists, etc.), friend exchanges, or secret Santa exchanges might all fall into this category.
Other non-gift things you spend on each year could be added into this tip as well, like Christmas cards, ornaments, advent items, wrapping supplies, or annual collections all add to your holiday budget but are easy to forget to plan for. Don’t re-create the list each year! Create a list of all of those things you do or purchase over and over and keep it handy to use every holiday season. Store it online, with your holiday decorations, or in your Christmas journal.
9. Create a Christmas Journal
If you’re not a fan of digital record-keeping, create a Christmas journal and use it to record your gift-giving, your memories, scrapbook items, thoughts and feelings as you go through the season and prayers. How can this help simplify your Christmas gift-giving? It will help you keep track of what you’ve given in previous years, it will be a place to keep your every-year list, and it can be a central location for holiday to-do lists and gift purchases.
10. That’s a Wrap
Once you get the gifts home, you probably need to wrap them. As part of the whole process, let’s cover a few ways you can streamline wrapping. While I love a beautifully coordinated wrapping scheme with fancy bows, ties, and handmade tags, if you’re looking to simplify your holiday, choose to skip the elaborate wrapping. Pay someone else to wrap your gifts, find a scout troop offering free wrapping at the local mall, get them gift wrapped in the store, hire your neighbor’s daughter to wrap for you, or choose easy, peasy gift bags.
Wrap your gifts within 48 hours of bringing them in the house and you’ll have a pretty base under your tree and an item that doesn’t hang around on your to-do list for weeks on end.
I realize 1,800 words about simplifying anything might feel a bit overwhelming! It feels that way to me after writing it all out! But, choosing to implement just one or two of these ideas will help! Next season you could take a few more steps. And before you know it, you’ll have a gift-giving routine that will feel easy and fulfilling!