Thursday, August 7, 2008

Planning for Christmas gift giving

Gift giving around the big holidays in December is a large portion of the gift allocation in my spending plan. While our family exchanges names of the adults for Christmas gifts, the number of nieces and nephews in the family keeps rising (seven with two due to arrive by December). Additionally, I try to be thoughtful about the gifts I request on my Christmas list. Is this something I need? Will I use it regularly? For example, I requested a book on native plants for my state. I ended up with two gardening books, both of which I used heavily this spring and summer as I chose plants for my front yard, consulted for information about the crops I chose to grow in my vegetable garden and as I plan for the future of my food-growing endeavors. These two books are proving to be excellent references, and I imagine I will continue to use them for years.

Why am I thinking about Christmas now? I want to avoid the frenzy of shopping that occurs between Thanksgiving and Christmas in the United States. I am not a fan of crowded stores and with my goals of sustainability, I would prefer to give good used items as gifts or make something to give away rather than buying new plastic items that will end up being regifted or discreetly donated to the local charity thrift store.

In addition, I want to save money. By shopping for gifts secondhand, I can keep within my target ranges, $10 per niece/nephew, $20 per adult. During the 2007 holiday season, I managed to keep my total for the season at $100. With my current nieces and nephews covered with all the clothing, books and games I have purchased for them, I only need to worry about the adults in my life. Since I have discovered the joys of freezer jam, this may factor greatly in some Christmas gifts. I also have many gifts I can construct (I sew and quilt) or bake. Keeping an eye out for that one thing that a friend may be able to use or searching through items in my home that can be regifted are also strategies I will employ.

Two nieces and one nephew are receiving clothing in the next size for Christmas. While I have not sorted through the games, puzzles and books I have purchased over the summer from garage sales, I should have the rest of the children covered. In addition, I also need to have my gift stash carry me through until next summer when garage season starts up again. I have three nieces with birthdays in the winter and early spring (with two more due in December) so planning ahead is easier on me, my time and my spending plan.

While I think about what to put on my Christmas list in July or August, this exercise also makes me consider what gifts to give friends and neighbors. I will likely bake for a few gifts. If I am truly ambitious, I may using my sewing and quilting skills for a gift or two. Planning now for the holidays makes it less stressful. It is one fewer task I need to accomplish and can focus on keeping my house and life in order rather than the gifts I have to buy in the next two days before I have no time.

I always work better with a plan even as I revise it. To help me organize my thoughts and keep track of ideas, I create a list with the giftee's name and write down what I am thinking of getting them. If the item is something I need to create from scratch, I am aware of the time I need to invest in making it. If it is something I can watch for in thrift store or at a garage sale, I do that as well. Believe me, many items can be found in great condition (unused in box or barely used and unblemished) at both secondhand venues. No one will know you only paid a fraction of retail for that gift at Christmas--unless you tell them.

Be thoughtful about the gifts you give and have a plan for Christmas shopping. These two points (plus a list!) help me keep my gift spending low and my joy high at Christmas time!

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