If you haven’t started your Christmas shopping yet, chances are you are keen to get going. It’s getting busy out there and if you’ve a long list of people to buy for, it’s hard to think straight in a crowded shopping centre with piped carols blaring. Easy to understand then why so many of us resort to ‘that’ll have to do’ when buying Christmas gifts. It doesn’t have to be this way though. If you create a clear game plan, you can avoid all this stress and unnecessary expense and turn gift buying into a fun, creative endeavour.
In my view, the first step in any Christmas gift buying game plan is to re-evaluate who you’re going to buy for. Martin Lewis (Money Saving Expert.com) argues that Christmas has become a retail festival which leads families into stress and debt. He argues that it’s time to ban unnecessary Christmas gifts. That’s not to say you don’t buy gifts for your loved ones but if you have a large family, you could for example agree to only buy for the kids. Lewis created what he calls the Pre-NUPP (no unnecessary present’s pact) which takes the stigma out of not giving unnecessary gifts just for the sake of it. If you have friends who you exchange perfunctory gifts with, you may want to release each other from this obligation. I broached the subject with a few friends this year and without exception, everyone was keen to ditch gift buying. After all who needs more bath oil in plastic bottles? Our oceans certainly don’t need any more plastic waste!
Having cut the number of people you’re going to buy for, you are then in a position to put more time and thought into the gifts you do buy. You can do this without going near a shopping centre or spending a small fortune.
Being a Gift Detective
Being a ‘gift detective’ involves asking yourself some probing questions about each person you’re buying for. These questions will give you clues as to suitable gift ideas. When you’re buying a gift for someone, try to think like they think. It about what they like, not what you like!
Do they for example talk of growing their own herb garden? Do they dream of starting their own business or have a passion for baking? If you ask yourself plenty of questions, inspiration will surely come to you. It’s less easy to be creative in a blind panic though so give yourself a bit of time to think in order to come up with the best ideas.
I’ve have created a series of printables to help you with your gift buying. You will find my ‘Being a Gift Detective’ printable helpful. This is about putting yourself in the other person’s shoes and answering lots of questions from their perspective. It should spark lots of potential gift ideas. Then on the next page, there is a ‘Thoughtful Gift Planner’ table where you can begin capturing your thoughts.
So what makes a great gift?
For me, a gift where a little time and thought has been invested is always so much more treasured than some hurriedly purchased gift in cellophane wrapping.
Keeping an eye out
It’s hard to find gifts that thrill the recipient year after year but it can be done if you are continually on the lookout. For example, last year I was browsing in shop selling bric-a-brac, I came across a tiny booklet on how to read the history of old churches. It was a charming little thing written in the 1930’s with beautiful illustrations, costing just £2. I thought my sister-in-law might like it so I bought it on a whim and wrapped it up for her along with other gifts. This tiny booklet was a triumph and she was absolutely thrilled with it so it really does pay to keep your eyes open and act on your intuition.
Another way to approach gifts is to consider giving someone a collection of gifts with a specific theme or story. For example, a nice bottle of wine doesn’t seem a particularly remarkable gift, but if you pick up a couple of striking old wine glasses in a charity show and include a box of gourmet nuts, you have assembled something altogether more thoughtful for very little extra cost.
Whenever I go to a car boot sale, flea market or second hand book shop, I always keep my eyes open for something beautiful or unusual. It might be a beautifully embroidered floral tray cloth, a delicate bone china tea cup or even an old map of an area that a friend is fond of. Once you have your show stopper, you can add in one or two items to compliment it and you have a lovely gift box.
During the Christmas season, it’s always nice to consider giving the gift of a charity donation in someone’s name. This could simply be in the form of a cheque or buying a specific gift from a charity such as ‘Oxfam Unwrapped’. Here you can buy things like training for farmers in poorer countries facing climate change, to help them grow more crops and raise animals.
Another way of giving back is to choose to give a product that supports a charity in some way. For example, TOM’s shoes will give a child in need a new pair of shoes for each pair purchased by a customer.
Homemade and Hand-me-down Gifts
If you have a little time, there is little more delightful than making homemade gifts for friends and family. What could be more touching than receiving a pretty tin full of homemade gingerbread men all iced by hand? What about a hand-me-down gift such as grandmother’s recipe book or her favourite brooch? How wonderful to receive something that’s been passed down from one generation to the next. If you have an idea for a gift like this, it’s even more precious if you take the time to write down the story of the gift. For example, with the recipe book, you could share a story about a special meal where one of the recipes was the centrepiece.
Making your own gifts is extremely satisfying and offers a welcome antidote to the craziness of the high street. Whether you’re making herb infused oils, potting hyacinths or baking chocolate brownies, you’re giving yourself a chance to slow down and do something creative. And how delightful for the recipient to know they have a unique gift that was made with so much thought and care. An expensive store bought box of bath products starts to look like a shallow cop out in comparison.
An Emergency Gift Drawer
Having an emergency gift draw with a few pre-wrapped gifts is a good fall back position over the Christmas season. A nice box of chocolates, a scented candle or some beautiful soap and you can quickly reciprocate the unexpected gift. You can pre-wrap these gifts and stick on a blank gift label so you can grab one quickly in the event of an unexpected extra guest or a neighbour calling with a gift. Don’t forget to put a post-it note on to remind you what each one is.
If like me you put unwanted gifts in your gift draw, do use a post-it note to remind you who gave it to you. It would be embarrassing to give it back to the person who bought it for you!
Environmentally Friendly Wrapping
Once you’ve gone to the trouble of finding the perfect gift, it’s worth giving some thought to how you’re going to present it. I used to love using metallic wrapping paper and glittery ribbons to wrap my gifts. These days I want to be more environmentally friendly so I will often use brown paper which I decorate with ink stamps and sprigs of rosemary or I’ll find a way to present the gift that doesn’t involve wrapping at all. Using a bag is a good idea, a nice scarf or even a metre of tulle and some tissue paper can look beautiful. You could also make a stocking for each person and retrieve it to use the following year once they have taken out their gift.
Inspirational Books on Gift Giving
If you want further inspiration of gift giving, there are three books that I would highly recommend, which are as follows:
Gifts from the Garden – Debora Robertson
Gifts from the Kitchen – Annie Rigg
The Gift of Giving – Rachel Ashwell
I have created a printable, to give you some ideas about gifts for people with different interests. You can use this as the starting point but trust your own instincts and don’t be afraid to take a risk now and again.
If you’d like to see more of my printables, you can find me on Etsy. My shop is called ‘my year by design’ typed without any spaces.