Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Holiday Anguish Cheer - Simple tips to keep your celebrations on track, Part II

Welcome to Part two of my three part series, offering some of my best tips for trying to simplify your holiday celebrations! (Missed part one? Click here). Today, I'll be tackling aspects of Gift Giving.

Use a gift book.
I make entries in a record book of all the gifts I give, and to whom, every Christmas. I stuff the receipts inside the book as well, and when I dig the book out the following year, dispose of the receipts (if I haven't needed to return an item by then, I probably won't ever need to). It's great to have an "at-a-glance" way to see everything left to buy, and to retrieve receipts when necessary. It's also good to add comments about gifts you've given. If it appears a person really loved something, make a note of it - and vice versa. If a gift went over badly, or you sensed the person didn't enjoy it (eg. you buy them a purse and find out a few months later she gave it to someone else), make a note of it, that in future it might not be a good idea to buy that person fashion items.

Consider the Clutter-Free gift
Let's face it: many of us suffer from too much "stuff". When you're overburdened with "stuff", you have trouble finding the things you really treasure, among all the "unnecessaries". Do you really want to contribute to someone else's clutter? Probably not.

Flylady is the Queen of Clutter-free living - terribly inspirational, definitely check out her website and get inspired! She has a great list of clutter-free gifts for people like teachers, clergy and others for whom you may want to choose a gift, but also want to give something that won't contribute to their "stuff".

The best part about clutter-free gifts (besides them being clutter-free!) is that they're usually pretty quick and easy to do, without being "cheap" looking. Donating in a friend's name to their favorite charity only takes a few minutes (check out my list of great charities). Buying colored pencils and crayons for a teacher (often they have to buy supplies for the classroom out of their own pocket) can be done during a regular shopping trip - no specialty store visit required.

If you decide to go the charity route, there are some charities that offer a little stuffed animal in return for your donation. So you could donate money to sponsor a Polar Bear, and get a small stuffed toy for under the tree, along with some info about the animal who will be helped by the donation.

Unique Do It Yourself Gifts
Head on over to the MommySavers Boards for tons of fantastic present ideas you can make yourself! And they don't all require you to be super-handy with a sewing needle either (mercifully!)!

If you want to keep the presents simple, avoid the malls. I know this isn't easy for most people, but truly: out of sight is out of mind. I had to go into the city the other day, and almost had a brain cramp when I went through the malls - and I wasn't even shopping! There were just SO many booths with "Stuff" that all looked interesting and fun and ideal...but ideal for what? When I got home and thought about what I had seen, I knew that none of it was stuff that we really needed, and the majority of it would have ended up being tossed aside in only a few months anyway. One or two little "fun" items are fine, but these things can get out of hand so fast. So for me, it's much better to save that money for something more meaningful and fun, like a movie and junk food date with my boyfriend! :)

Buy staple wardrobe items ASAP. Everyone buys underwear and socks for the holidays. But I highly recommend going out now and getting them. If you wait till the weeks before Christmas, the racks are stripped almost bare, and you get no choice of colors - you're lucky to get the right sizes. So buy the underwear and socks NOW.

Joint Gifts.
If you're good friends with someone, why not come up with a joint gift you can give each other? For example, you and your best girl friend can make a date to go together to a day spa. Spend quality time relaxing while getting a pedicure and massage (get a baby sitter to look after the kids - a babysitter who, no doubt, will be glad of some extra cash for the holidays). Guys can go to a pub to watch a pay-per-view event, or go watch a favorite sporting event together, which they may not get the opportunity to do all that often. These are gifts you get too!

Stay tuned for Part III, Recipes & Food Preparation...

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