5 Ways to be Realistic About Holiday Shopping

As you likely know, I suck at shopping for me. But when it comes to gift giving, I am in heaven. I love buying things for other people. I like asking questions to find out about things they like, don’t like, want to try, place to go and all that double-knot spy kind of stuff. I most enjoy seeing or hearing their reaction when they open their gift to find something that is really meaningful to them.

Let’s just all admit that we’ve received gifts that are meaningless to us but hold a great deal of meaning or importance to the giver. I’m not talking about the ugly necklace from your aunt that was your grandmothers that you really don’t want, will never wear, but has sentimental value. I’m also not including gifts from little kids that they made for us (but really, gold spray painted macaroni necklaces are always at the top of every mom’s list!). What I’m talking about are those gifts from our mothers-in-law that are her favorite stinky, smelly lotion and will end up in the donation bin faster than Ozzy Osbourne can say the F-word. I’m thinking of those gifts from friends or family that are either a regifted something or were bought because it was cheap, on-sale, near the cash register, or shoved in the back of the closet from 3 years ago.

Now, don’t’ get me wrong. I think re-gifting is OK under some circumstances. But that’s another blog post. Today it’s about being realistic about our holiday shopping. We can’t all rush to Neiman Marcus to pick up their newest $19,000 must-have gift. But what we can do is take some time now, before the rush and the crush, and be mindful about the gifts we’re going to give.

5 Ways To Be Realistic About Holiday Shopping

1. Decide who gets and who doesn’t – this could be budget based or logistical, but decide now who you’ll be shopping for. Write it down and really think who’s going to make the list. Make the list, check it twice. Heck, check it 200 times! But only put people on the list that you really want to buy for. Don’t buy for people because you think you have to or they buy for you or you don’t want to look cheap. You’ll look cheap and the gift will be horrible because you won’t put the time into it. This isn’t about being mean or dissing anyone. It’s about being real and having focus.

2. Set a Budget – Maybe you did this before you made your list of people. If you did, then now you get to divvy it up among all the people on your list. If you didn’t set a budget, now’s the time to do it. Whether it’s a per-person limit or an overall total, determine up front what you’re comfortable spending. Write it down, engrave it in stone, write it on your hand in sharpie, post sticky note in your house or your car or do whatever you need to remind you. If you have to take cash out of the bank, then so be it. Spend ONLY that cash. When it’s done, then so are you. And you’ll have to figure out something else. But don’t over-spend just because you’re stressed out and just pick up anything. It’s not easy to stick to a budget, but you’ll feel better if you do. Most importantly, make the budget realistic. If you don’t think spending $10 on Aunt Ella is realistic either spend more (only if you have it! Aunt Ella doesn’t want you to go into debt for her) or just give her a lovely card. If you don’t have the money, don’t spend it. Work within your means and your budget! Stay tuned here for great holiday gifts that won’t break the bank!

3. Plan ahead – what do you want that person to get from you? Have they mentioned a book or restaurant they’re looking forward to? Do they have a hobby or a passion for something that you can support? Do they need a new scarf, sweater, mug, backpack, or set of knives? Have they dropped hints? Can you go in on a bigger gift with someone else? Think about their gift for more than 62 seconds while you’re speeding through Target at 9:46pm on Christmas Eve.

4. Get Them Something THEY Want – you may think that the Dice-o-matic is awesome, but not everyone will. So don’t get it for your nephew who just got his first apartment. He won’t care and you’ll become that aunt. You may love yoga but your BFF may not want the yoga mat DVD combo you think is so great – especially since she’s never once gone to ‘bring a friend night’ even though you’ve asked her every week for the past 2 years. You may hate that your brother in law spends 3 hours a night playing Farmville but giving him a $10 gift card to play his game might make him stop sending you requests to plant corn or support his pig farm. Think about this like a business – It’s not what YOU want, it’s what the CONSUMER wants!

5. Have Fun – holiday shopping can be a drag some times. But the whole point of giving gifts is to show your love, appreciation, kindness toward others. You want them to know you care. So have fun! Think outside the box, mix things us, step outside your comfort zone. Gift recipients aren’t stupid, they know when we just get any ol’ thing for them. We give gifts because we want to (or, that’s why we should), not because we are obligated. Have fun seeing their perspective, have fun wrapping it, have fun in giving it! Think about how much fun kids have buying gifts for mom and dad, grandma and grandpa. They could buy grandpa a can of WD-40 because they know he is always fixing things, and the child is so filled with joy and excitement for this seemingly boring gift.

Whatever winter holiday you observe, regardless of whether it’s a major gift giving one or not, it’s on the calendar well in advance. There’s no ned to pretend it sneaks up on us. So let’s all get started so we can get finished and sit back and enjoy relaxing and enjoying all those other events that will take place.

I don’t profess that these 5 tips will save you time or money or sanity. But what I do believe is that being prepared goes a long way to allowing us to make better decisions. And better decision is how we save time, money and sanity!

If you have other tips, please share them! Can’t have too many tips to get us all through what is sure to be a busy time.


What Do Jews Do On Christmas?

Swimming on Christmas

My family never celebrated Christmas. Jews don’t celebrate it. Except, a Jewish girl I know only online from reading her blog. She grew up celebrating Santa Day. I read her post and thought that is was both bizarre and cool at the same time. My Jewish family never did anything like that. So, some Jews celebrate Santa Day.

In general, though, most Jews don’t. So what do we do? I know it’s hard to imagine, but we often have non-Jewish friends who invite us over. Many years my family would go over to my Auntie Ann and Auntie Penny’s house and eat a fancy dinner, a la Thanksgiving. The weirdest thing about my Auntie Ann and Auntie Penny are that they’re Jewish, or that’s what I’ve been told. But they celebrate Christmas. I didn’t understand it when I was a kid but it meant I got presents so why not play along. Honestly, as a 40-something I still don’t understand it. But, if it works for them.

When we moved away from our family, we ended up meeting many of our Jewish friends for dinner at a local Chinese restaurant. The place was always packed. With Jews! The owners were not Christian and did not celebrate Christmas so one year they decided to open and see if they had anyone come in. And the tradition for my family to meet other Jewish friends for Chinese food on Christmas was born.

But when I went to Jewish camp, off to college, and even today when Christmas discussions come up among my Jewish friends it seems like we all went out for Chinese on Christmas. I wonder if there was some kind of a telephone game passed along. Or some secret society that sprung up. And as the 80s came around I started to see kosher Chinese restaurants pop up so that meant that my more observant Jewish friends were joining in.

Really, though, eating dinner out meant an entire day of nothing to do. My mom used to tell me about going over to friends and playing games or meeting friends at the park. That was the 50s and 60s though. Long before any type of electronic games were invented. Long before any movie theaters considered opening. Before there was really much else.

So when my friend got an Atari, it was a full-on Atari fest! WooHoo! Who could resist hours of Pong? Fortunately more games came out so we were able to master Air-Sea Battle and the Olympics game. And, of course, Pac-Man when that came out. I still remember my mom driving me over to my friend’s house and spending the whole day hanging out playing games.

By time my teenage years were upon me, movie theaters started opening on Christmas Day. My mom would drop me off and I’d meet friends and we’d stay all day watching whatever was showing. It didn’t matter what it was, it was just a time to hang out with friends. And it wasn’t a Jewish thing by this point. It was a teenager thing.

Now that I’m older, and there are a lot more options, I think many Jewish kids are missing out on the tradition of eating Chinese food and chillin’ out. Even now, as an adult, I kinda miss those days when there was truly nothing to do. When there were but 3 channels on TV, no stores were open, there was no internet, no cell phone, nothing.

I love being connected to people, but on days like Christmas when most Americans are huddled around a tree opening gifts and sharing family moments I, too, enjoyed my family moments of my youth. Instead, it’s so much harder to create because all the things we do on other days can be done on December 25th too. And while I’m glad I don’t have to eat Chinese food, I miss the quiet.

For the past decade or so, we go over to my mother in law’s house. I get the stress that my Christmas-celebrating friends feel with the gift giving and the family gatherings. Makes me miss the boredom of childhood.

To those of you who celebrate, Merry Christmas. To those of you who don’t have a lovely day!