Christmas shopping season is upon us, and I know that many people absolutely dread this time of year simply because they feel overwhelmed by the prospect of buying a lot of gifts in a short span of time and on a deadline.
I know exactly how you feel--I love buying gifts for people, but there's something about the Christmas season that is particularly strenuous even for the most avid gift buyer.
Actually, not only do I buy gifts for people on behalf of myself but I also buy gifts on behalf of others. You know that job title "personal shopper"--I would love to do that full time for a living!
Here's how I organize buying gifts for a lot of different people with the least amount of stress possible:
1 - Set up spreadsheet
You can do this in Google Docs or Excel. Here's how mine looks:
I like the spreadsheet because it reduces a lot of stress--you don't have to wonder, "Now, what did I get for Gina?" or "Am I forgetting anybody?"
You know what you gave, how much you spent, when you ordered it, and when you received it.
2 - Email folks asking them for Amazon wish lists or gift suggestions.
The Amazon Wish List is amazingly helpful if you can get the people on your list to create one. They just need an Amazon account, and then they go to "Wish List", usually found in the upper right hand corner on Amazon.com
The people on your list don't have to choose items at Amazon--they can put items from any website on their Amazon.com wishlist.
Then, all they need to do is give you the link to the wish list they've created for themselves, and you don't have to even think of what to give them--they've already done the thinking for you!
3 - Shop online.
Probably the biggest hassle with Christmas shopping is dealing with the crowds. There's an easy way to get around that--just shop online. Most major stores have online shopping. You can place your order any time of the day or night, and it's delivered to your house. It couldn't be easier!
4 - Be decisive.
When I try to help people with their Christmas shopping, one common source of stress is the fear of "not knowing what to get" and not giving a good gift. It seems like the pressure of coming up with a "good gift" creates a lot of stress in some people.
My strategy is this:
- First, ask people to provide specific gift suggestions.
- If they don't give that info, then I try to think of something general that they would like, such as a gift card to a sporting goods store, a clothing store, or a restaurant. If the person likes to read, a Barnes & Noble gift card is always appreciated.
- Make the decision and stick with it--don't buy something and then second guess yourself and consider returning it. Just get a gift receipt (if it's something other than a gift card), and the recipient can return it if he or she likes.
- Realize that there is no perfect gift. You could spend hours trying to find "the perfect gift", and the person you're giving it to may end up returning it anyway. Even if they keep it, how long witll they remember that individual gift? Most of us can't remember every gift we received last year--we just remember that a particular person gave us something. It's truly the thought that counts.
So, don't feel under a lot of pressure--the idea is to get a thoughtful gift that is within your price range that the person will most likely enjoy. You can discreetly provide a gift receipt in case they would prefer to exchange it for something else.
The important part is that you gave something--you could even make something and have it be really special. That you even thought to give the person a gift is what will make them feel warm and fuzzy inside, not the actual gift itself.
Christmas shopping can be fun if you keep things simple, lower your expectations for yourself, and communicate with the people you're giving gifts to. The sooner you're done shopping the better--then you can just relax and enjoy the really memorable parts of the Christmas season: spending time with your family, baking cookies, and whatever other family traditions you have.