The Christmas Calmdown–We’re Making a List!

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Hello, and welcome back to another instalment of the Christmas Calmdown!  We’re planning ahead for a calm December, and this month we’re tackling gifts!  Gift giving has the potential to be the loveliest of all holiday rituals, yet it is quite often the straw that breaks the holiday camel’s back.  It’s not hard to understand why; gift giving covers the whole organizing spectrum of:
  • Budgeting (how much to spend),
  • Planning (who gets what and where do I get it),
  • Activity (shopping), and
  • Creativity (wrapping and tagging). 
It’s easy to get bogged down and bummed out, which inevitably leads to December 23 Midnight Madness at the mall and a smoking Visa card.

But no more…

Right now, on March 25, with the decidedly un-holiday backdrop of mud and rain, we are going to make a few decisions and commit to a plan!

To me, there are essentially three categories of Christmas presents:

1. Traditional – Essentially, presents that you buy.  Whether in store or online, you decide who gets what and hand over some money .  Many retailers will even giftwrap for you. 

Why it works – Who doesn’t love gifts?  Picking the perfect present can be tons of fun, and if you’re creative you can really go to town wrapping  Check out Martha for great ideas!

Why it goes wrong – Without a budget, all that shopping can hit your wallet hard.  Both in terms of time and money, if you don’t plan carefully, you may find yourself stressed out, tapped out, and missing out on all the fun, meaningful things you want to do.

Plan of attack – Make a list of everyone you need to buy for and decide how much you want to spend.  Think you’re being a Scrooge?  $50.00 for a gift may not seem like much, but once you multiply that by 10…eeep!  Whatever number you came up with, there’s a few ways to make it more tolerable.  One option is to divide that amount by the number of pay cheques you have left until December 1 and commit to transferring that amount to a savings account. (For the $500.00, that works out to about $30.00 every two weeks.  Not as painful, eh?)  Another option is to purchase one gift per pay cheque. Still another (for you power shoppers out there) is to shop the sales year round (my mom starts during Boxing Week, no lie, and she always gives the BEST gifts). 

2. Charitable – Truly the gifts that keep on giving, Charitable Gifts are a personal favourite of mine, and what I’m planning to give this year.  Adopt-a-Family programs, Third World outreach, animal rescues and food banks are all ways you can give while giving back.  This year we’re planning a donation to our local Christmas hamper fund as well as paying for a child’s cleft palate surgery through The Smile Train foundation.  Check out World Vision, Samaritan’s Purse, and the website for your local humane society for other ideas.

Why it Works – Charitable gifts are more in keeping with the spirit of the season.  More and more people, tired of the materialism, are turning away from store bought gifts in exchange for heartfelt donations.  Also, this is an excellent way to really put your holiday budget to work; instead of trying to stretch your dollar over many, many gifts, put it all into one great give and share the news in a beautiful Christmas card.  You can’t beat the warm fuzzies!!!

Why it doesn’t work – Really, the only time charitable gifts don’t work is when the recipient doesn’t share your spirit.  It’s sad but sometimes it happens, and I suppose the economy is thankful for these folks. But you’re in luck!  There are plenty of great fair trade organizations who make beautiful gifts; one of my favourites is Ten Thousand Villages

Plan of attack – As with traditional gifts, decide what you want to do and how much you can spend, and make a plan to spread that amount out over the months remaining until December.  Some organizations will send out cards acknowledging that a gift has been made in your loved one’s name; these often have a deadline so mark this date down in your Christmas Planner.

3. Home-made Gifts – Ah, the heartfelt and homespun!  Some of my favourite gifts, both given and received, fall into this category.  Knit, crocheted, sewn, thrown, painted, sketched, sanded or beaded, nothing says “I’m thinking of you” like a home-made item.

Why it Works – If you’re crafty you can cross-budget your Christmas gifts with your hobby allowance.  Also, homemade gifts give you an opportunity to try out projects you may not make otherwise, like children’s items for example.  You’ll feel great (and oh so proud) to give something you’ve laboured over to someone you love.

Why it doesn’t work – Time, time, time.  I did homemade gifts this year, and despite my best efforts, time was not on my side.  I got everything finished, but oh my, my hands were sore from all that power knitting!  This has the potential to be a budget wrecker, too; if you purchase a bunch of craft supplies and then have to go out and buy gifts, too….ouch.

Plan of Attack – Be realistic about what you can make.  Consider duplicating the same item with slight variations for a number of people.  I did this for my sisters and sister in law with a fingerless mitt pattern I can practically knit in my sleep.  And as above, budget now; home-made, despite popular belief, is not necessarily cheaper.

And there you have it! You can pick one category, or mix and match.  If you can even commit to a budgeting plan, you can always decide later what you want to do with the money you’ve put aside.  In addition to my charitable gifts, I’d like to make or buy a tree ornament to go along with the announcements so that’s something I’m going to start thinking about now.

No matter what approach you decide to take, you can be confident knowing that come December, you’ll be ahead of the game and can truly enjoy your holiday shopping, knowing that you’re in control.

And now, a note from Ains…

Wow! I never really thought about it, but seeing how Kim has broken it down, I can see how gifting really does fall into three main categories! I would have to say I'm kind of a "mix and match" kinda girl, and tend to spread my giving over all three. We always make a point to give a few charitable gifts (the "choose-your-own" gift cards from World Vision have been our favourites as of late), I love making handmade gifts for those who appreciate the work that goes into them, and I always end up buying a few things too. I really try to do the budget thing as well. Since the majority of our gift-recipients live on the East Coast, I try to do the shopping for those family members during our annual trip home, even if that means wrapping presents in August! This saves the shipping costs, and takes away a lot of the stress come December!

Thanks, Ains!  This post is also appearing over at her blog, Pattycake Manners.  Be sure to check it out!
Finally, did anyone make a planner after last month’s post?  I sure did!  If you made one too, and posted about it, be sure to mention in the comments so we can go check it out!  Here’s mine and Ainsley’s! 

You’ll remember Ainsley’s super cute planner that features gorgeous Stampin’ Up fabric.  Love it!
Ains' Planner
For my planner, I took a stroll down the pre-cut fabric aisle at Walmart.  I’ve been loving these colourful little treasures (I recently picked up a bundle of spring-y fat quarters in chocolate brown and brights to decorate my office space).  I found a single fat quarter of light-weight flannel in a fine, red houndstooth check.  After I got it home I realized that it was a bit too short to completely cover my binder, so I covered the edges with red felt.  Some jumbo red rick-rack and a cute chip-board tag complete my holiday planner!
My Pretty Planner
So, how goes the planning?  Do you have a method for gift planning?  Or do you think the last minute spend-a-thon is an integral part of the holiday season?  Share in the comments!!!

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