Too-Simple Ways to De-Stress Holiday Gift Shopping

Many of us are painfully familiar with the anxiety and stress that the ‘happy’ holidays can create. That feeling of drowning in indecision – that sensation of falling behind – that inability to enjoy events because we might not get everything done if we relax for even the briefest moment. Familiar frantic frazzly tingles starting at the back of your neck when you think about what to get for Aunt Julie this year? Do you swallow the dread in your throat and settle for yet another ceramic deer statue for Cousin Ellen, just because you saw one on her mantle ten years ago?

Do the gifts you receive reflect the panic and anxiety building up in someone else? Is this the third year in a row you’ve gotten a size three pink sweater from your dearly beloved, even though he should know by now you’re not a size three, hate pink and never wear sweaters?

It’s not uncommon for gift-giving to cause stress and panic, even when your gifting target is someone you’ve known all your life. We try to select the ‘perfect gift no matter what’ even as the other person is trying to do exactly the same thing FOR US.

If the thought of digging into holiday shopping is leaving you short of breath and teetering on the edge of panic, take a deep breath and try a few of these simple ideas.

  • Make a list – but not of gifts…

    Remember the 3-by-5 card approach in debate class? Each topic got a card, and that card contained hints, not the entire text of the debate point. Grab this idea and use it for your gifting guidance. Start this as early in the year as you think about it (like NOW!) and you’ll have a priceless shopping resource for the holiday season. At the top of a card, print the person’s name. Below that, put the gift that you gave last year (no sense risking duplicate). Then right below that, add in pearls of wisdom… does she play tennis? Does he fly-fish? Jet ski enthusiast? Bookworm? Techie? Keep that list of hobbies as current as you possibly can and, if in doubt, ask Jerry if he’s still taking that sailboat out every weekend. If the sailboat sunk last year, a brand new set of flotation cushions may not be well-received.

  • Use Gift Registry services – and don’t forget yourself

    Gift registry services are not just for brides… encourage those you’ll be shopping for to sign up at registry services online and leave hints, clues, even specifics. I prefer the one at http://www.mygiftlist.com – give it a try. Whatever you decide to use, get your gift-target friends involved early so that they’ve had time to post their preferences long before the shopping crunch begins to hit.

  • Pick a done-shopping-date – and keep it.

    For instance, pick two Mondays after Thanksgiving weekend (for 2006, that will be December 4th.) This gives you two weekends after that US holiday to get to the stores, battle the crowds (way too many folks try to cram their holiday shopping into the Friday after Thanksgiving!), get clear of the crammed parking lots, and get things wrapped and shipped in plenty of time.

  • Make a budget – and stick to it.

    If you have $235 to spend on gifts, and you’re shopping on the ground (not the Internet), go to the bank or ATM, and get that $235 out, and spend ONLY what you have with you. Stow the credit cards at home. Stick an extra $20 in the back of your wallet for gas money and wrapping paper, but spend only what you plan to spend on the gifts themselves. If you’re wary about hauling cash around (and there are places on this planet where wariness of that sort is wise!), arrange for a debit card or use checks.

  • Shop early in the day – and deal with smaller, calmer crowds.

    Know your crowd-control limits. If you find it annoying to stand in line at check-out counters for ten minutes, do your shopping as early in the day as possible. Don’t put yourself into situations that you know will add to your stress level.

  • Shop the Internet – and let someone else handle the shipping.

    Use SAFE sites which prominently display TrustE, Hacker Safe, Better Business Bureau stamps and the like. Look for secure shopping carts – look for the HTTPS:// in the cart address as you head for the checkout page. Many browsers will alert you if the security certificate associated with the site is out of date or inaccurate.

  • Can’t find the perfect gift? Consider Time

    If you can’t find the right gift, find the right gift certificate, or make your own little booklet of certificates for services like a personal shopper day, a month of lawn-mowing, a three-week laundry reprieve, ten errand runs. Sometimes the most meaningful gift is the gift of your own time and attention.

  • Above all, Don’t Panic

    Take a deep breath, light a scented candle, relax and smile. T’is not the season to get mired in panic, anxiety, guilt and hassle. T’is the season to express our fondness and caring for our family and friends.