9 Steps to Stress-Free Holiday Giving

During the holidays, do you race frantically through the malls, credit cards in hand, wondering what to get the folks on your list? Are you soul-weary and depleted of all resources by January 1? Have the holidays become more of a burden than an opportunity for joy and celebration? Would you like this year to be different? Help is at hand.

Let’s establish some new goals for this first holiday season of the new century:

  1. Treat Yourself with Respect
    A woman who remembers to care for herself, while tending to the needs of family and friends, is one whose loved ones will not only enjoy the holiday without guilt, but will delight in her company as well.
  2. Avoid the January Shock of Bloated Credit Card Bills
    You want to spend a reasonable amount of money in a creative way.
  3. Establish a Game Plan
    Come up with a gift-giving strategy you can implement with ease.

Okay. Let’s have some fun! It’s time to get some 8 1/2” x 11” paper and a pencil with a good eraser. I’m going to take you through the 9 Steps to Stress-Free Holiday Giving. Are you ready?

Continue to page 2 for the nine steps...

Step One
How much money would you ideally like to spend this holiday? Note this figure in the upper right hand corner of your first page.

Step Two
Create three columns. List everyone for whom you’d like to buy a present in the first column. In the next column, write your dream gift and, in the last column, approximately how much it costs. Don’t rush through this part!

Are you absolutely blank about some folks? With each person for whom you are stumped, ask yourself the following kinds of questions:

  • Did she take up a new sport this year?
  • Does she like to cook or do crafts?
  • Did she move to new living quarters recently?

We often know more about others than we realize. If you absolutely hit a blank wall, ask yourself who might know the answers to these questions. Relatives, mutual friends and secretaries have a wealth of information at their fingertips.

Step Three
Add up the total for each gift. Does it exceed your budget? Don’t panic. It happens to just about everyone on the first pass. Time to eliminate some folks from your wish list. Please don’t feel bad about this part of the process. I have every confidence that even the rich and famous have to bite the bullet at this point.

Keep in mind that while money may be an issue, you can still express your gratitude and affection to someone in a holiday card. Words of appreciation are empowering and few of us take the time to express them.

Step Four
Even with fewer people, you may still need to alter the amount of money designated for each person. Looking to save money doesn’t mean you have to purchase cheap items -- it does mean you have to challenge your creativity.

Let’s look at some examples of creative gifts:

  • Every home I organize has at least one box of pictures that are intended for an album. Why not ‘sneak’ into your parents’ home, for example, and take photos from a favorite vacation or holiday past and surprise them with an album?
  • Call your local university and ask for a continuing education brochure for the January start of classes. You might find reasonably priced classes and be responsible for several friends learning how to salsa!
  • Did your best friends just have a baby? Contact their favorite babysitter and purchase a few hours of his or her time. Give your friends a gift certificate telling them that they now have the luxury of a few hours for shopping, some quiet time at the beach or a night on the town.

Several passes at your initial list with an open mind and a willingness to depart from the norm (does anyone really need another tie or bottle of toilet water?) and you’ll have gifts that will make your friends happy and keep your expenses under control. Return to your list when these choices have been made. Add the individual figures again and see if you are now in line with your budget. Keep those creative juices flowing until you are a few dollars under budget.

Step Five
Remember to be ‘geographically aware’ when you schedule your mall time. Don’t retrace your steps and make multiple visits to the same mall.

Step Six
Check your supplies. Do you have enough gift-wrap, ribbon, bows, tape and mailing paraphernalia? Schedule a stop at your local gift store and stock up.

Step Seven
Put a red ‘X’ next to all the gifts that must be sent out of town. Note a target date on your calendar or in your weekly planner for visiting the post office.

Step Eight
Why not schedule a specific time to do your holiday cards? In this day and age, don’t be shy about generating labels on the computer to make this process go faster. Use a festive font!

Step Nine
Does the prospect of planning and shopping leave you breathless no matter how much advance work you contemplate doing? Why not try a few online purchases this year? Or you can hire someone to do it for you. There are personal shoppers and professional organizers like myself who can handle every last detail. We swear never to reveal to anyone that you did not personally brave the crowds at the mall.

A Closing Thought
I’d like to leave you with a final word of encouragement. No matter what feelings the holidays bring up for you, remember that you are in charge of your life. You needn’t have a knee-jerk reaction to this time of year. Don’t allow the inner pressure to be ‘perfect’ cloud the realities of your life, including the economic ones. Celebrate within your means so that the New Year will begin with a harvest of happy memories to be cherished. It’s the best gift you can give yourself this holiday!

A note from Regina Leeds: As a professional organizer for over 12 years, I have developed a unique way of helping my clients release the chaos from their environments and establish peace in its place. For anyone who feels overwhelmed with stuff and obligations, the goal of tapping into the Zen of organizing is to live and work in environments that nurture all the inhabitants, as well as the work each one hopes to accomplish. I hope that this series of articles helps you do just that. And look for my book, The Zen of Organizing, which will be released in November 2000. (iVillage will provide a link to buy it as soon as it's available.)

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