The holidays mean a time of love, friendship, carols in front of a fireplace, candlelight…but you can’t forget Black Friday, shopping til you drop, and credit card debt as well. From the beginning of the year through the last gift you buy or plane you catch, planning will reap major benefits. Having a plan doesn’t have to mean you’re a stick in the mud or that you can’t adjust as necessary when plans change. But if you don’t have one at all, your spending on presents can get out of control very fast. Consider the following:
Gifts you already have
Most planners have a “gift box” somewhere, although it may be a closet, a bag, or even an extra drawer. This is where you stash gifts you’ve already purchased throughout the year on deep discounts. Many of us, however, forget to check our stash before we start buying again. In an ideal world, you might keep a list of everything you put in and take out of the gift box, but that may be a little anal. But having a gift box becomes pointless if you forget to pull the gifts out, wrap them, and give them away.
Gifts you (or your kids) can make
Sure, if you can whip up hand-knit gloves, that would be fantastic. But there’s a tremendously huge sample of craft ideas out there, some of which require little or no specific skill. Grandparents, uncles and aunts, and others love what you get the kids to do and if you finish it off with a nice frame, it’ll be less expensive and far more wonderful than a traditional gift.
Pose an alternative Chances are most (if not all) of the adults in your family find giving gifts to each other to be a waste of time and money. For some it is and for others it isn’t, but if you think your family might be open to changing things up, suggest drawing names or doing away with sibling gifts altogether. You may be the solution everyone’s hoping for.
Gift ideas for the people that remain on your list
For me, every single year this includes my dad. He is impossible to shop for: he’s easy to please, can buy himself whatever it is he wants, and he dislikes it if you’ve spent what he considers to be “too much.” Sometimes you’ll have a stroke of genius (I was pretty proud when I hunted down a copy of his favorite book from his childhood) and sometimes you’ll fall back on an old favorite (one of the four of us gives Dad the J.K. Lasser Tax Guide every Christmas). Once you have a list of possibilities, you’ll be better equipped to find one in your price range.
The single most important thing to plan
Do not, under any circumstances, discuss your gifts with anyone else in the family. You are not in a competition to see who loves Dad the most or to imply through your gift that one person values another person more. Gift giving should be about letting someone you love know how you feel, whether it’s in a nicely written poem or an X-Box Kinect. If someone starts talking about what they got and how much it costs, just say “We’re very excited about what we got Rebecca this year; we put a lot of thought into it” and leave it at that.
Holidays can be wonderful, joyful times, but they certainly do bring about stress, hard feelings, and money problems as well. Make fun all you want, but you better believe that by November of each year, I’ve done most of the gift planning for the entire next year already. And I always end up on budget.