Managing the holiday shopping list

It’s the time of year when many people’s thoughts turn to holiday gift-giving. There’s a real joy in finding just the right gift for a close friend or beloved relative — and starting tomorrow, we’ll help you find some of those gifts in our annual uncluttered and organized gift-giving guide.

But sometimes gift-giving gets overwhelming and isn’t fun any more. If you’ve got a huge list of gifts to purchase and dread what that means, perhaps you can get some agreement to scale things back a bit. For a family, that may mean giving gifts to the children but not the aunts and uncles. Or, within any group, there could be a “secret Santa” approach where each person winds up buying for just one other person, rather than for everyone.

Such approaches may have the benefit of reducing the clutter caused by well-intended gifts that were sadly off the mark. And you can always participate in some charitable gift-giving opportunities that definitely won’t cause clutter and can make the holiday season brighter for the gift recipients.

I always take part in my local Adopt a Family program, providing things like warm clothes and grocery store gift cards to those in need. Many churches and civic organizations run similar programs.

If you want to focus on children, you could buy a toy for Toys for Tots. And some locales have book drives at the holidays.

Of course, you could also just donate cash to any of your favorite charities. Food banks that try to ensure people have a nice holiday dinner (as well as food throughout the year) would certainly appreciate anything you could give.

Do you like the idea of helping someone in particular? Some organizations help individuals in need make it over a tough spot in their lives caused by medical problems and more. You could help a family pay their rent and keep their home (or meet other pressing needs) by donating to one of the drives at Small Can Be Big or any similar program.

Or you could select a gift from the catalog at Good Gifts and buy a pig for an African subsistence farmer, tools for a trainee carpenter, etc. As Lucy Siegle noted in The Guardian back in 2007, “Most charities that run goat-gifting schemes pool the money from your gift. You might pay for a goat, but the money may eventually be used for a water project.” If you’re fine with that, there are many places to donate. But if you want your donation to buy exactly what you selected, Good Gifts is at least one way to make that happen.

If your friends and family are into such things, you could combine gift giving with charity. If you know people’s favorite causes, you could make donations in their names. Or you could get gift cards from CharityChoice or JustGive, and let them choose where to send the donation.

4 Comments for “Managing the holiday shopping list”

  1. posted by Christine on

    Since my oldest started kindergarten, I’ve been making charity donations in honor of her class and before/after care program. I usually choose the charity and print out a certificate or send an ecard to notify them of the donation. It seems much more fulfilling than Starbucks gift cards, etc.

  2. posted by Sandra on

    When I was teaching Kindergarten, I asked parents to forego “teacher gifts”, and donate to our class gift for “Snowsuits for Kids”, if they wished. The response was always overwhelming. The children were thrilled to know that donations kept other children warm. I always made sure to send a note home after Christmas to tell parents how many snowsuits we were able to purchase.

  3. posted by Brooke Lopez on

    You can support teachers of all types by selecting a project on We do this every year for our kids birthdays encouraging party guests to fund a specific project. They keep you informed as to the completion of the funding and the project progress after funding. When you give in honor of someone, they are notified of progress and receive thank you notes from the teacher.

  4. posted by Irene on

    Hi Jeri – my name is Irene and I work with Small Can Be Big. Thank you so much for supporting our mission and families! We’re always looking to improve and be more efficient with our time (so we can spend ALL of our resources getting families funded). I was wondering how you heard about Small Can Be Big? We want to make sure we’re doing more of what works and less of what doesn’t 🙂

    Thanks again and enjoy the holidays!

Comments are closed.