Shhh, listen very carefully. I am going to share with you the secret to giving the perfect gift... Buy something the receiver would really like.
Yesterday afternoon, while shopping in an artsy boutique, I noticed a man watching me with a look of bemused curiosity. I had walked through the store once and now, on my second pass, the man approached me and asked, "Are you one of those professional shoppers?" I explained that while I was not a professional shopper (although my husband may disagree), for the holiday season there is definitely a method to my madness. The man asked for the "secret" to my shopping plan, which I gladly shared.
I begin with my carefully edited list of those people I would be giving gifts to this year. To read more hints on getting started with your holiday shopping, please read Holiday Gift Giving - How to Get Started.
Next comes budgeting. Having a preset limit for each gift, and for my total list, helped alleviate much holiday stress.
Information gathering is next. I found that all the catalogues piling up near my mailbox actually served two wonderful purposes. I could window shop from the comfort of my own home, sipping tea and getting great ideas. Plus, the pages from these catalogues made wonderful, colorful packing material for the boxes I must ship.
Once I had some ideas, I chose three shopping venues:
- The Mall ~ I know the mall is the bane of many people's existence, especially during the holiday season. My recommendation is to shop the mall on a weekday. Arrive with the mall walkers, at least 15 minutes before the stores open. Doing so allows you to nab one of the best parking spots right near an entrance. Review the mall map. Choose only the few stores (5 or less!) that you must visit. Begin with the store furthest from your car and work your way backwards.
- The Internet ~ Let your fingers do the walking. Or clicking. Visit your favorite stores and catalogues online. They are always open and parking is never an issue. Items can be shipped to you or directly to the recipient.
- Artsy Boutique ~ Yes, you are taking a chance purchasing something at a small, local shop. But in addition to supporting the merchants in your community, you can find the more unusual and personal gifts. As an added incentive, many boutiques will gift wrap your purchases at no charge... saving you time, money and hassle.
Wishing you and yours all the best this holiday season.
Q: Dear Mannersmith ~ I will be attending many holiday gatherings over the coming weeks. Aside from the typical wine, flowers and chocolates, can you suggest any other hostess gifts?
A: My favorite hostess gifts this year are:
- Cranium ~ this board game is anything but boring. It can be modified to suit all ages and includes charades, modeling clay, drawing and singing. This is a great activity for those who attend marathon family gatherings.
- Wine Charms ~ these cute little pieces (here is an example) are designed to clip on the bottom of each guest's wine glass. There are generally between 6 and 12 pieces in each set. The charms come in themes ranging for gardening to golf, stocks to books. In addition to being a good conversation starter, they help guests keep track of their glasses therefore creating less stemware washing for the hostess.
- Baked Goods ~ If you have the time and energy, homemade goodies wrapped with a ribbon are always welcome. Otherwise, visit the hometown bakery. There is an Italian bakery near me, and people travel for miles to line up outside their door for a box of melt-in-your-mouth holiday cookies.
Q: Dear Mannersmith ~ I am not a big fan of plastic toys that need batteries to run. I do not yet have kids, but would like to buy something special for my sister's children. I am not even sure where to start.
A: I am a big believer in helping children begin a life-long love affair with reading. Think back to your favorite childhood stories. Many of them are still in print. Or, find books where the main character's name is the same as your niece's or nephew's. For young children, my favorite toy is a wooden play cube. This is something for the kids to share in the playroom.
Q: Dear Mannersmith ~ The conspicuous consumption of the holidays bothers me. I would prefer to make donations to charity instead. Can I do this?
A: Absolutely! Please do donate. Whether the donation is the gift or part of the gift, it is important to think of others during the holiday season. The best way to make a donation as a gift is to find the name of the recipient's favorite philanthropy and make a donation in their honor.