The very nature of shopping is stressful. There’s the ever-present tight budget accompanied by the hope of your desired item being available.
Thankfully, Amazon and the other digital titans of the world have made the one-click experience an amazing experience. Nevertheless, the stress compounds when you have to shop for others. Throw in the “most wonderful time of the year,” and it’s easy to go from holiday cheer to “Bah Humbug!”
While I am a Thanksgiving purist and wait until Black Friday to celebrate all things Christmas, I look forward to the stress of holiday shopping. In fact, I’m that person who still has to shop on the 23rd and 24th. I’ve even been known to shop on Christmas Day. The joy of knowing you got your friend the perfect gift makes up for the seasonal anxiety.
If you’re shuddering at the thought of what to gift loved ones this month, I’ll walk you through my process in the hope it helps you rival Santa Claus.
MAKE IT PERSONAL
We’ve all been in situations where we have to run to a drugstore because we forgot a gift. Grabbing something random should not however, be the norm. Be it for Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or Christmas, you’re most likely gifting someone you care for, so take the extra time to consider them as a person versus a name on a list.
SET A BUDGET
This is a situation where you have to ask yourself, “which comes first, the list or the budget?” Whichever way you choose to begin, you can’t have one without the other. Dave Ramsey, the notable financial advisor, suggests you spend 1.6 percent of your annual salary on seasonal gifts. For context, if you make $20,000 a year, you should only spend $320 this holiday season on gifts.
With that in mind, how creative do you need to get with your purchases? One of my favorite white elephant experiences was when the price cap was set at a dollar. You’re forced to think outside of the box and to run to the Dollar Tree (not Dollar General). You shouldn’t spend your time focused on how to afford the world, but rather, focus on how to show your world how much they mean to you.
We live in a city with several opportunities to eat, experience and enjoy (sounds like a marketing slogan, doesn’t it?). There’s always a great show at Theatre Baton Rouge, something tasty at Red Stick Spice Company and a new discovery to be found at the Knock- Knock Children’s Museum. Give the gift of Baton Rouge.
This is also a great idea for those on your list who live afar. Imagine the life-altering elation your cousin in Idaho will receive when he opens up a box from Tony’s Seafood. That is a gift that can keep on giving.
PICK A THEME
My favorite holiday hack is to set a theme for gift-giving, and then to let my brain run wild. In the past, my themes have been centered around books, Amazon and food.
My two favorite themed years, however, were entitled ‘Experiences,’ followed by the year of ‘Finances.’ In ‘Experiences,’ everyone received a gift related to—you guessed it—an experience. For my parents, I sent them to a Cirque du Soleil performance, while some friends received a date night. Also included that year were tickets to concerts, professional and collegiate athletic games. Another great thing about that year is that I barely left home to purchase the experiences. It may surprise you, but I didn’t give anyone cash during the ‘Finances’ year.
Case in point — I opened a START Savings plan for my oldest niece and gave her an Elsa bank. The toy bank was an additional gift, but you try telling a four-year-old to appreciate a college fund; won’t work for at least 13 more years. Speaking of appreciation, I gifted a friend stock shares that year. By setting a theme, you create a checks and balances system for yourself, and it makes things simpler. Plus, themes create a buzz amongst your friends and family as to what they might receive each year.
Leave December’s stress to the juggling of obligatory visits and for the hunt of the perfect ugly sweater. From purchasing the perfect gift to wrapping it (in unwaxed paper if you want to be socially conscious), make the process a merry adventure.
Oh, and as for what my theme for this year will be? Well, let’s just say that it has much to do with education.
Image: Nick Martino