The holidays are upon us. And for all of the bright lights and happy songs, they can also be very stressful. Adding to already busy schedules comes decorating, cooking, parties and shopping for just the right gifts. So many times I find myself just rushing through the holidays in an effort ‘to get things done’ and by New Year’s realize that I really did not enjoy anything.
A few years ago, I decided to take a more relaxed, stop-and-smell-the-pine-trees approach to the holidays. And I’m about to share one of my secrets to a more relaxing holiday season – stressing less about shopping and gift giving.
It’s so tempting to run out to the stores and go on a hunt for the elusive ‘perfect gift’. But too many times I run out of time and end up grabbing something at the last minute.
So instead, I decided to make the whole experience much easier and much more enjoyable to me. And now I’m going to share my approach with you. I hope this helps relieve your shopping and gift-giving stress!
Here are my 5 Tips for Stress-Free Holiday Gift Giving:
1. Be Like Santa and “Make a List”
It’s tempting to make a spreadsheet on your computer, do a list on an app on your phone or hastily scribble something down on a scrap of paper before running into the shopping mania.
But this year why not make creating a list a Christmas experience. Put on some comfy clothes. If you have a fireplace, light a fire. Turn on relaxing music. Maybe even Christmas music to get you into the spirit. Make a cup of your favorite tea or pour a glass of wine and sit down with paper and pen.
Yes, paper and pen. So why paper and pen? Because studies have shown that writing or drawing by hand unlocks creativity much more than typing on a computer. I happen to love really great pens and markers. If you have a favorite grab yours now. The key here is to make the task of making your list as fun and enjoyable as possible. So for this step just write down the names of everyone that you want to purchase a gift for this holiday season. Below is an example of a gift planner you can create for yourself.
2. Follow Santa's Lead and "Check it Twice"
Next go back through the list and next to everyone’s name put the amount you want to budget for their gift. I know this is hard to do. But how stressful is it when you get those credit card bills in later January and see how much you overspent? By setting the budget for each person you can be realistic about much you can spend and relieve your own stress.
3. Get Personal
Next, close your eyes and imagine the first person. Think about
- What you talked about the last time you spoke
- What they like to do in their free time – do they have a hobby or are they focused on kids or grandkids?
- Where did they spend their last vacation?
- Are they interested in switching careers or going back to school?
Then open your eyes and next to each name write 3 interests or hobbies that you came up with. Do this for every person on your list.
For some people on your list this might be easy. For others not so much. If you feel the need to buy something for your daughter’s boyfriend but really don’t know him that well, perhaps check out his Facebook page or Instagram feed. For example, if you looked at my Facebook page some very obvious things will pop up like my love for my horse and dog and my interest in gardening. Other not so obvious likes include great food, dining out, vacationing at the beach, and the belief that most problems can be solved by a great martini.
4. Brainstorm Three Gift Ideas.
Time to get creative. Based on what you wrote down about each person’s interests, write down 3 gift ideas and try to go beyond the obvious. Let’s take me for example – you now know I like horses. But I really don’t need one more kitchy horse statue or T-shirt. This would be the easy way out.
It’s time to really think about the person you are gifting for what they could really use or would enjoy. You may know that horses are expensive so someone like me would appreciate a gift card to my local tack shop. If this feels too impersonal, what about adding a certificate for spending an afternoon together going on an outing that includes a trip to the tack shop to use the gift card? Here are a few more ideas to help you put a unique spin on your gifts.
- Give the Gift of Time: If you know a new mom you know that they have very little free time. Offer to baby sit for an hour or two so they can take an uninterrupted nap or go out for a manicure. Add a gift certificate for the manicure or a massage if that fits with your budget.
- Create a 'Doing' Gift – Let’s face it – we all have tons of ‘stuff’. How about giving someone a gift for an outing. My significant other has what I consider to be the world’s worst birthday – Jan 3. By the time we get to his birthday everyone is sick of holidays, parties and gift giving. And he’s not easy to buy for. So last year, I took him to a local attraction that he had never been to as a kid. Then we visited a local distillery for a private tour (he doesn’t drink much but loves the chemistry of it) and rounded out the day with a lovely meal at a restaurant we had never been to. I even created a fancy itinerary for the day that was on his seat when we got into the car. Really look at each person’s interests and commit to spending time with them doing something they really enjoy. BONUS – There are lots of fun things to do that don’t cost a ton of money.
- Think About Gift Boxes or Bundles – There are lots of companies on-line that create these for you or you can create your own. Find a fun box or plastic bin at a local craft store and then add lots of small items around a theme. Great pens and sketch pad for the aspiring artist, golf balls, tees and towels for the avid golfer, wine stoppers, a wine tasting notebook and pretty pen for the wine aficionado.
- Use Gift Guides and Amazon Search to Get Ideas – Even if you don’t plan to buy from Amazon their search function is great. Just type Great Gifts for Golfers into Google search and Amazon’s Gift Guide is at the top. You can also go directly to Amazon and search for Great Gifts for Golfers. Check out the ideas and most popular items. Most interest magazines create gift guides that you can find on-line ( If you are looking for gardening gifts check out our Gifts for Gardeners Collection here)
5. Shop til You Drop (NOT)
Finally add where you plan to purchase your item to your list. This way you can plan your trip or on-line ordering experience to take care of everything at once. Here are a few tips to make your in-store or on-line shopping experience a breeze.
- On-line – Nothing beats the convenience of Amazon especially if you are a Prime member. If you don’t love the behemoth that Amazon has become keep in mind that 50% of Amazon’s revenue now comes from third party sellers. There are lots of small businesses who have started their businesses on the Amazon platform or are now adding Amazon as one of their sales channels. So you can buy through the trusted Amazon platform and support small businesses. If you still don’t want to contribute to Amazon’s bottom line, you can always research the seller of your favorite gift and see if they have their own on-line store – just like we do here at The Relaxed Gardener! Just make sure to be aware of shipping and delivery times.
- In-Store – If you plan to venture out you may want to do a bit of research before going to be sure the stores that you plan to visit have what you want. Things get sold out quickly around the holidays and stores only keep a limited supply (stock is expensive!). We love supporting local stores and businesses and we try to enlist their help when we are looking to buy a gift that we know nothing about. I have no idea what makes a great golf ball so I would be sure to call my local golf store to find out. And if they are helpful, I’m always sure to purchase from them even if the item is less expensive on-line. It costs money to staff stores and helpful staff is always worth an extra cost to me.
By taking some quality time to think through your shopping list and make a plan you can turn your holiday shopping from one more chore to an enjoyable experience.
From All of Us Here at The Relaxed Gardener - We Wish You a Happy, Healthy and Relaxing Holiday Season.
I have always found your tips to be most helpful. Many thanks.