Today begins our annual Holiday Gift Giving Guide. Between now and November 21, we will share numerous articles on uncluttered giving that can be used this season. Most of these ideas also will apply to gift giving throughout the year, irrespective of the occasion.
Do the holidays creep up on you and give an unwelcome jolt? Unless you like unpleasant surprises (like forgetting someone on your list), treat the holidays like any other project — one deserving of a well laid out plan with a timelines and a reasonable budget. That way, you’ll know what to expect and have a guide to ensure that you don’t overspend or overlook important people or events. That means that you can …
Start planning early
The benefit of planning early will be less stress and more time to enjoy the gift giving season. Though your first thought may be about the list of people you intend to give gifts to, there are other things to consider as well, like how much money you will spend, whether or not you will be hosting a party or attending one (or more) holiday events, along with the type of gifts you’ll give.
As you start thinking about all the things you need (or want) to do, get them out of your head and record them on a spreadsheet, in your paper journal, or in an online notebook. Put your plans in buckets or categories (who you’ll buy gifts for, gifts to purchase/make, specialty stores to visit, sales to take advantage of) and also consider what worked last year to see what you’d like to repeat and things you prefer to do differently. Include gifting traditions that you want to keep and and new ones that you’d like to try out. Will you need help so that your plans can go off without a hitch? Will you share the expense of certain gifts?
With so much to think about and do, it can get overwhelming, so the next step would be to:
Set your monetary budget
Figuring out how much you can afford to spend will likely drive the types of activities you engage in, as well as how much you spend on presents. The website LearnVest.com suggests that you use the 50/20/30 rule to determine how much of your take home pay will be put toward three categories of expenses:
- 50 percent for essential expenses (rent/mortgage, utilities, groceries)
- 20 percent for financial priorities (debt payments, savings contributions)
- 30 percent for lifestyle choices (hobbies, pets, cable/internet)
Though this rule pertains to your general budget, it can also help you determine how much you will put toward holiday spending, which seems to fall in the “lifestyle choices” category. Since that is an area you tend to have more control over, you can make some adjustments (reduce the number of times you eat out per month, cut back on expenses related to hobbies) so that you can put money toward your holiday fund.
As you crunch the numbers, think about whether you’ll have a per person budget ($50 for significant others, $25 for friends or children’s teachers, $15 dollars for neighbors, $10 for co-workers) or a flat amount for everyone. Will you forgo gifts for some people and send them cards instead? How will you handle charitable giving? You’ll also need to think about the number of holiday parties you’ll attend as you may be expected to give each host a gift.
Budget your time
Not only is budgeting your money important, but so is budgeting your time. Whether you purchase gifts or make them, you’ll need to figure out how much time you can realistically devote to shopping, crafting, or baking (and wrapping, too). Will you schedule time after work, on weekends, or both? Will you purchase generic presents (like gift cards) or select items that match the recipients wants/needs/personality? Will you send holiday cards to some people in lieu of a gift? Are the stores with special sales in close proximity to your home or office? Whatever you decide to do, plan how you’ll use your time so you don’t end up feeling stressed by rushing around at the last minute.
One way to save some time is to stop guessing which things to buy. Ask your friends and family members what they want. You can do that easily by using websites like Amazon, WishListr.com, or SeeWhatTheyWant.com to find out exactly what your loved ones are hoping to receive. With each of these sites, you’ll be able to see what has already been bought and reduce the risk of duplicate purchases. Alternatively, you can use the Gift Planning Checklist from Lifehacker.com to keep track of the gifts you’ve already bought. As you think about how you’ll budget your time, look for opportunities to divide and conquer — share your holiday chores with others who can help you with the shopping or crafting duties.
Now that Christmas is six weeks away, this is a great time to pull your thoughts together to create a budget and plan so that you can have a stress free and festive holiday season. Over the next nine days, we’ll supply you with numerous uncluttered gift ideas to inspire your planning list to help reduce even more of your stress — so stay tuned.
The full 2012 Holiday Gift Giving Guide.