10 tips for smarter holiday shopping and gifting

This time of year, it’s very easy to get sucked into the drama and the stress of holiday shopping. I’ve been there! Here are my ten tips on making things a little easier.

1. Shop year-round. You heard me. Have those feelers out 364 days a year. Watch for sales, clearance racks and other deals, and just keep an eye out for gifts that you knew a certain someone would love, or just gifts you know just about anyone would love and store them away in your closet. I’m not talking Hoarders-style here, just a few things you see that are perfect. You can always fill in the gaps come November and December.

2. If you get gift cards, be absolutely certain that the recipient enjoys regularly shopping or eating at the establishment that you choose. There are some striking statistics out there on how many gift cards go completely unused (i.e. wasted). If you’re at all unsure, skip it. A small gift you know they will enjoy goes a lot further.

3. Clothing isn’t a great gift option, so just skip it if you can. Unless you are privy to someone’s sizes (and most of us are not, not even our spouses) it can be awkward for them if it doesn’t fit, and difficult to exchange or return. Save yourself the stress of “what size? WHAT SIZE?!” and opt for a handbag or a nice scarf instead.

4. If you’re a big giver, set aside a little money each month in a special account that you can use toward holiday purchases. It certainly helps to have that money in place when the time comes, and it’s SO much better than maxing out all your credit cards and trying to deal with it in January.

5. Handmade gifts are often the best gifts. Make some homemade cookies or jams, decorate a wooden picture frame, have children color pictures, make a simple sewing project or put together a scrapbook of a favorite memory. Not only are handmade gifts completely unique, but they come straight from the heart, and that’s what a recipient really wants.

6. With some people, I find it fun to have a gift-giving tradition. Each year, buy each other the same thing: an ornament, funky earrings, garden seeds, coffee mugs, whatever it is that you share an interest in. It takes the thinking out of a gift, and in the end you each will have a fun collection.

7. For children, if you find yourself in the toy aisle, head swirling, head to the games and puzzles. They are much more enjoyable and educational. Just find something age-appropriate.

8. Save yourself some money and only send holiday cards to close friends and family. Cut out friends you haven’t spoken to in forever, old bosses, obscure 5th cousins, anyone you wouldn’t mind not getting a card from yourself. You can save a bundle on cards and postage.

9. If you really don’t know what to get someone, just ask. Better you feel like a fool for a few minutes, not knowing what to get, than feel unsure forever that you’re getting the right gift. The recipient usually appreciates being asked rather than you doing some quick guess work.

10. Consider spending money to “adopt a family” instead of exchanging gifts. My mom’s family has been doing this recently, and it’s so great. For one, it completely eliminates the stress of buying gifts, and you’re also helping a family in need, which feels so great. Another great gift is making a charitable donation in your recipient’s name. They will feel honored, and you will have put your money to good use.

I wrote this blog post while participating in the TwitterMoms and Office Depot blogging program, making me eligible to get a $40 Office Depot gift card. For more information on how you can participate, click here.

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