Surefire Ways to Avoid Christmas Gift Related Stress and Confusion

Do you love Christmas but dread that stressful feeling that creeps up when it’s time to buy gifts? Presents are a tricky thing indeed. You may have conflicting thoughts running through your mind at this busy time of year. Things like, so-and-so never likes anything I buy… what should I do? or the kids keep changing their minds about what to put on their lists! or what to get for the person who already has everything?

You might find yourself asking “How can I get all of my shopping done when I have no time as it is?” “What should I buy for teachers, bus drivers, babysitters, the mail man?” And of course, on the minds of just about every holiday gift giver: “How will I manage not to go broke this year?”

The best way to reduce Christmas gift-giving (and receiving) stress is to be upfront about what’s going to happen. Before a solid plan can click into place, there needs to be a frank discussion. Sit down with your immediate and extended family. Or, initiate an email conversation if that feels less awkward for you.

Ask questions like:

“How much should we agree to spend per person this year?”

“Are we doing gifts for the adults in the family or just the kids?”

“What about a Secret Santa Grab Bag?” This is a fun way to reduce the number of gifts to buy at Christmas time.

Something for Everyone

One good solution for Christmas is to come up with a theme that reduces the amount of factory-made, mall-purchased “stuff” that everyone is so tired of receiving year after year only to see it break after a few uses.

“Experience gifts” could be a great solution for the family who enjoys spending quality time or travelling together. Instead of sweaters and toys, you can plan a family outing, such as a museum trip, or themed event, like a hockey game.

Adults might opt to swap smaller, thoughtful gifts like a photo collage or picture mug, knitted mittens or a cosy throw for the sofa.

Gift certificates to things like a massage therapy session, pottery lesson, cigar bar, or golf outing could make a fun and exciting Christmas present for the avid hobbyist in your life.

Wine or beer and a set of glasses, or food gift baskets (could be homemade, could be store-bought) make nice gifts for the holiday host and hostess.

Teachers’ gifts can be homemade to save money, and you can do a bulk prep night if you’re crafty or handy. Think candle pouring, essential oil-based homemade soaps, or hand-painted votive holders. If you’re not the maker type, how about a gift certificate for Krispy Kreme or Starbucks? Coffee and tea are always well received, and won’t break the bank.

Being on the Gift Receiving End Can be Stressful, Too

How to handle gifts that you can’t use, so you won’t end up giving the gift-giver the wrong impression, and be looking at a decade or more of fuzzy slippers which you never did like, year after year? Be grateful but honest. Timing may be the key as well. You may not want to blurt in the middle of the family gift exchange, “Oh, boy, ANOTHER year, another bad tie!” But after some time has passed, you might gently explain to the gift giver that the tie (or whatever it was) isn’t quite your style, and you can ask if someone else in the family can make better use of it.

Another solution for less-than-ideal gifts is to stash them in a box in the attic and file under “regift.” We get enough invites in our lives that this hopefully won’t be an issue, as long as you circulate the gift into a different social circle. (If grandma gives you an ugly sweater that you really can’t stand, better to give it to a friend or use it at the office grab bag party, then wrap and give to your sister).

Avoid giving and receiving unappreciated or unwanted gifts in the first place by initiating an open up-front discussion about who needs/wants what this year.

You might learn that your $50 is better spent on a new shaving kit for your hubby than that scarf and hat set that you planned to spend knitting (which would have itched him anyway).

How to handle the tough topic of Christmas gifts and Santa, with kids?

First, have your children make a firm decision on what they’d like to see on their Christmas wish list this year. Tackle the task early, so that you can be sure the items are in stock. Explain to the children that Santa’s toy shop does run out of merchandise, and if we don’t put your order in they might miss out on getting what they want. “Mail” their lists to Santa right away, so they won’t be tempted to make changes.

One idea is to have your child list 2 or 3 big-ticket items, plus an assortment of smaller-sized (read: lower priced) gifts. Explain to your kids that no matter how good they were, Santa can’t always make the ultimate gift happen for every child.

Staying Within Your Holiday Gift-Giving Budget

If you’re concerned about the holiday budget, you should be. People tend to go wild with spending at this impulsive, generosity tinged time of year.

Remember also, though, that time equals money. You might be tempted to try and break down the doors for those rock-bottom toy deals… but at the expense of what or whom else in your life? If you feel uncomfortable driving to the mall in bad weather or after dark, then don’t try to be a hero. You can avoid a potential auto accident, or a panic attack from trying to accomplish one too many tasks all in one day, simply by ordering Christmas gifts online, paying a bit more and splurging on shipping.

Another way to tame the gift-giving budget this year is by penny-pinching some other aspect of your life. Worried about money? Give up pizza Fridays and Dunkin Donuts this month. Or, find creative ways to make a little money to lavish on family and friends. House cleaning, odd jobs, and setting up small gifts to sell, like hand-painted picture frames, could help you increase the balance of your bank account before you head out to shop for presents.

What about stress around receiving gifts?

To avoid stress when giving and receiving holiday gifts, approach with an open mind, open heart, and laid-back attitude. If someone gives you something you really don’t care for, don’t sweat it. These days, we’re never too far from a donation bin, and if the person doesn’t see you with said item in the future, maybe they’ll take the hint.

If the person who never seems to appreciate your carefully selected Christmas present for them, just shrug your shoulders and realize this is just one day in a long year, which will be over before we know it.

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