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December is arguably the busiest shopping month of the year, with shopping centers and malls historically reporting the most traffic this month. It’s no wonder: on average we will spend about $750 purchasing gifts and cards for our family, friends, coworkers and pets this year, according to the National Retail Federation. That’s a lot of shopping; it’s going to be a busy month! Therefore, it’s important to keep track of where, how and on whom that money is spent.
To help track of holiday purchases—and gift purchases year ‘round—I created a Gift Tracker to record dates, names, gift ideas and a budget for everyone on your list. Click to download the Gift Tracker 2012 in Word or a PDF version. The tracker is only part of the story, however. Use the tracker in conjunction with the overall Gift Giving for Busy People system.
When I was developing my POPS (Plan, Organize, Prioritize, Schedule) plan for personal success, I knew it could have applicability to the gift giving side of life. Nearly everything I do for holidays, home decorating and even entertaining follows that basic outline. So why not gift giving? The one adjustment I make when applying POPS to gift giving is to make it personal.
Thus, here are the four simple steps to streamlining and simplifying your gift giving, whether it’s the holidays or any day:
Creating a gift giving plan gives you a bird’s eye view of your gift giving needs, and lets you budget accordingly.
- Create a big picture view of all birthdays, anniversaries, known occasions and holiday gifts. The holidays are a heavy gift giving season, but look for groupings or clusters in the rest of the year. Maybe you have six birthdays and an anniversary in April. That’s a signal you will need to budget more for those times of the year.
- Create an annual budget, paying particular attention to winter holidays.
- Use a gift tracker to write down everyone you need or want to select a gift for, a price point for the gift and any ideas or things to remember.
Look at your gift giving behaviors. Are you typically a last-minute shopper, picking up some knick knack on the way to the office party for the grab bag? Or do you plan ahead? Even if you do plan and purchase ahead of time, is there a frenzy every time you need to wrap a gift? Once you identify what causes stress in your gift giving continuum, think about ways to make that task less stressful. Being organized might be the answer! Here are a couple of suggestions:
- Use a gift drawer so you’re never caught without a gift. What is a gift drawer, you ask? Read on.
- Designate supplies just for gift wrapping, and keep them handy. Read more.
Perhaps the biggest stressor in gift giving is “what” to buy or make to give to your recipient.
In Gift Giving for Busy People, I go into great detail with a series of questions designed to help you arrive at the perfect gift for your recipient. For now, try this exercise. Close your eyes and imagine yourself walking through a shopping mall with your recipient. What is she drawn to? Notice the stores, the items and the colors and see if any themes emerge. Or, would he even be caught dead in the mall? Where would he rather be? What would he rather be doing? What gift ideas come from those answers?
It is necessary to step into your recipient’s shoes for a moment to determine what is important to him or her. This includes being aware of your recipient’s social conscience and lifestyle; for example, you would not want to give a leather purse to a vegan. The reason this works is, people respond best when their values are supported. Challenge their values and they will withdraw or become defensive. This is true in any interpersonal exchange, whether it’s a business meeting, a family dinner, or a gift exchange. A gift giver should always keep in mind the recipient’s values, rather than his or her own.
Any gift you select may be personalized even more and made very special indeed. Do this by including a personal, handwritten note explaining your feelings behind the gift. For these gifts, we’re talking about symbolism and sentiment to move the gift beyond the realm of the generic and into perfection. For example, a husband presenting his wife with a clock on their first wedding anniversary might say, “May this gift remind you that no matter how quickly time may pass, my love will always be there for you.” A personal sentiment is free and it transforms the ordinary into something extraordinary and meaningful. Read more.
- Plan shopping trips at holiday time. Literally block off time after work or on a weekend (eek!) to shop for gifts.
- Looking at your gift tracker, look for groupings of stores; any time several gifts can be purchased at one store or at several stores in one shopping center, it saves time. (And gas!)
- Use technology to your advantage to comparison buy or simply buy online and ship directly to your recipient.
- Sign up on your favorite retailers’ social media pages, or sign up for promotional emails. Both are a great source of exclusive information on sales, as well as coupons.
- Combine tasks by shopping where you are. Read more.
- Save time by shopping when you are. Read more.
If you still need help selecting holiday gifts, check out my Holiday Gift Guide 2012 on Pinterest! Happy giving!!Read More
With 147 million people expected to shop on Black Friday and over the weekend, it’s going to be a madhouse out there! Be prepared with a shopping plan (including a budget), a prioritized list of stores and these tips:
Do make a list of the people you’re buying for, the specific items you’re purchasing and your budget.
Do your research ahead of time and comparison shop online before heading out the stores, especially for big ticket items.
Do sign up for email reminders, mobile alerts and sneak peeks on your favorite retailers’ websites and social media channels. More than 80 percent retailers are reaching customers with special deals through these channels.
Do find out what time your targeted stores are opening. Major discount retailers are opening Thursday night; many more open at midnight or in the wee hours of Friday morning.
Don’t buy anything just because “it’s a good deal.” Everything should have a purpose and/or a recipient.
Do wear comfy shoes and take water and snacks with you.
Don’t assume items may be returned. Find out what the store’s return policies are.
Do keep original receipts for all items.
Do set aside space in your home to store gifts, such as a closet or a deep drawer.
Don’t forget to shop online; online retailers are also running Black Friday specials, many of which include free shipping.
Do shop for you! These may be some of the best prices of the year, so if there’s something you’ve been needing for your own home or closet, now might be the perfect time to make that purchase.Read More
Sad to say, but it’s time to start thinking about taking down the Christmas decorations. It seems like you just put them up, right? Here are some tips to make the deconstruction of Christmas a little easier this year. As an added bonus, taking the time to organize the “tear down” will make decorating the house that much easier next year.
Step 1: Schedule a “changeover day.”
There really is no hard-and-fast rule to take down Christmas; some people leave up the decorations through Valentine’s Day. Purists pack everything away by Epiphany on January 6, but for most of us it’s a matter of having the time to do it. So that’s the first step: setting a day, a series of evenings, or a weekend to put Christmas away and return the house to normal (more about that in a moment).
Step 2: Revisit the past.
Before you take one ornament off the tree or remove one light from the roofline, take some time to go through what you didn’t put up this year. Why didn’t you use those items? Are they broken? Worn out? Has your taste changed? Did you inherit it from a relative, and it’s just not “you”? Perhaps it is time to donate those items to charity or sell them on eBay and bless someone else’s home next year.
Step 3: Evaluate your storage options.
If your holiday decorations are stored in cardboard boxes, consider gradually replacing them with clear plastic bins as your budget allows. Most stores will put them on sale this time of year, so watch the Sunday paper for good deals. The bins are easy to carry, see-through and last much longer than cardboard, which can harbor little creepy-crawlies. There are bins with little compartments for ornaments, and durable nylon bags for wreaths and even trees; find out what works best for your situation.
Step 4: Collect and sort.
One of the guiding principles of organization is keeping like things together.
With this in mind, collect all the decorative items you placed around your house and corral them in one location such as the dining room table. Natural groupings should emerge. For example, put all the kitchen items in one corner, keep all the nutcrackers together, etc. Pack these items together. For example, all of my clear and silver accessories are in one bin, all the bathroom décor items are in another. For the ornaments, remove them from the tree and pack directly into bins or boxes. Remember to collect all the ornament hooks into a zipper bag and pack with the ornaments.
Step 5: Pack and track.
Pack away items in appropriate containers and store them in the appropriate locations. For example, you may not want to keep Grandma’s porcelain angel in a garage or attic that has extreme temperature swings.
Try to find a place in an interior closet for such delicate items. Remember to wash any holiday linens and towels before storing them. Space-saving, airtight plastic bags (such as Space Bags) are perfect for condensing these items for storage. While you’re packing, make an index card for each bin or box and detail the contents; mark the box or bin with a corresponding letter or number. Keep the index cards in a desk drawer or in a section of your recipe file box – wherever it makes sense for you.Finally, if you purchased new Christmas items this year, make sure you have room to store them. If space is at a premium, use the “one in, one out” rule: for every new item you bring in, one has to go out. If you don’t have space for it, be strong and don’t buy it!Read More
If you’ve been busy shopping for gifts and food, wrapping gifts, sending cards and planning a holiday meal menu, maybe you haven’t stopped to think about how to dress your holiday table this year. No worries! Here are four easy centerpiece ideas that you can pull together with items in your home or the grocery store.
Christmas floral – With a low vessel, such as a classic silverplate bowl, and a piece of floral oasis foam, you can create a beautiful, modern centerpiece from a mixed floral bouquet from the grocery store. Soak the foam as directed on the package, then separate the bouquet into groups by color and type of flower. Starting with the largest flower, cut the stem long enough to fit in the floral foam, but short enough to keep the flower head at a low profile. Then add the next largest flowers, distributing them around the arrangement. Fill in with smaller flowers, then greenery and berries, and finally a bit of sparkle. Perhaps the arrangement came with a few sparkly twigs, or you can add a few pieces of wire star garland for a festive touch.
Candle snowscape – Fill the bottom of a large glass sphere or fish bowl with a thick layer of kosher salt for a snow effect. Add a jar candle in the center of the snow and fill in with snips from a pine tree, cranberries, pine cones or even small glass ball ornaments. (Note: Be sure that the pine cuttings are well away from the candle flame. Do not leave burning candles unattended.)
Ornament centerpiece – This one is so easy and so colorful. Place a variety of glass ornaments, mixing their color and size, in a pedestal bowl or glass vase. Lay real or faux pine garlands down the center of the table and add in a few ornaments down the length of the table.
Figurines – Place a runner down the center of the table, or create a runner effect by running two or three parallel lengths of Christmas ribbon (plaid, organza, etc.) down the table with a 5 or 6 inch gap between them. In this gap, place Christmas themed figurines from a favorite collection, such as Santas, winter birds or nutcrackers all along the center of the table. In between the figurines, add votive candles, small potted poinsettias, or small evergreen cuttings.Read More
Of all the symbols of Christmas – the Nativity, Santa Claus, the Star of Bethlehem, stockings and a dozen more – the Christmas tree has arguably become the most universal, and one of the oldest traditions we still carry on in modern times.
The first record of a decorated tree used in a Christmastime ceremony dates back to 1510. In Riga, Latvia, a group of men from a merchant’s guild decorated an evergreen with paper roses (symbolic of the Virgin Mary) and placed it in the town square. They danced around it and then set it on fire (go figure). A plaque now marks the spot where the tree stood.Whether you prefer your tree to be fresh or artificial, there are a few tried-and-true rules for decorating the tree that are sure to deliver beautiful results.
1. Lights: Everyone seems to have their own method, either in spirals from top to bottom or branch by branch. Whatever your style, make sure the lights are working before you put them on the tree!
2. Garland: If you’re using garland, that comes next. Consider trading in the metallic variety for a pretty paper or organza ribbon to coordinate with your color scheme. Or, instead of placing garland in a horizontal pattern, how about changing it up and running it from the top of the tree to the bottom?
3. Solid balls: The #1 secret of decorators is to fill in the tree with inexpensive glass balls, placing them towards the inside of the tree. They add color, shine and volume to your ornament collection.
4. Ornaments: On the outer branches, place the ornaments you’ve collected over the years. Put your sentimental favorites front and center. It’s hard for me to get through decorating the tree without a few tears; so many ornaments hold memories passed down through the years. I still have a paper ornament of St. Nick’s face from the late 1890s that belonged to my great grandparents. It’s always the last ornament on the tree.
5. Fill in: Try this decorator’s trick. Think about what could add some whimsy to your tree. Fill in blank spots on the tree by tucking in dried florals, fresh pine boughs, sprays of metallic stars, or even feathers!The last thing to think about when putting up your tree is taking it down. If it’s a fresh tree, find out where you can recycle it. For an artificial tree, consider storing it in a large duffel-type bag made just for trees.Read More