I have to admit I can be a bit of a Scrooge. Christmas is not really my favorite, and it mostly has to do with the fact that as a student, I don’t have a lot of extra money to spend. I’m at the point where I actually have pretty good gift ideas for my family and friends, and I really do enjoy gift shopping, but it’s really more stressful than it’s worth because do I get my brother a nice-ish tool I know he wants, or do I buy a full tank of gas instead of perpetually adding $5 at a time?
Since one of my fall semester goals was to not add unnecessary stress, I’ve tried to bring that over into the holidays. Here’s what I’ve been doing to that end so far.
- Only get gifts for the most important people. For me, that means my immediate family and my boyfriend, and that’s it. In the past, I’ve done gift exchanges with friends, and that’s just too much. My roommate and I agreed the other day that it’s much more fun to give random “I’m thinking of you” gifts throughout the year than to give Christmas gifts that feel more obligatory than thoughtful. Plus, that way I can choose to give a gift when I have a little extra cash, and not when I’m also buying stuff for a bunch of other people.
- Think of ideas ahead of time. I know it’s a little late for this, but I do try to start thinking about ideas in November or October. I usually make notes on my phone if someone mentions something they’d like to have that I know I could afford.
- Shop smart by buying early, when you have money, and also watch for sales. Again, I know it’s a little late now. Make a note, self!
- Used is good news. (That rhymes!) This year, I killed a few birds with one stone by getting bookstore credit for old textbooks at a used bookstore, then turning around and using my credit to pick up several gifts. Secondhand shops take more digging than regular retail, but there are always hidden gems!
- Team up. My siblings are in the same boat that I am financially, and I don’t think there’s ever been a year that I haven’t bought a joint gift with one of them. It’s much nicer for my parents to receive a better gift from two or three of us than three kind of lame ones.
- Gift cards seem lame, but actually they’re great. Personally, I love gift cards. Easier to buy, but way less tacky than cash. I’d rather get, say, a Starbucks gift card than a necklace I’ll wear once or twice. Gift cards still show that you know the person and what they would like, and they’re especially great when given with a heartfelt note.
- Get crafty, but be smart about it. I go the crafty route every few years when I find a really good idea. But you have to be careful with this one. Craft supplies can get expensive, and it’s usually a good idea to test it first to make sure it will hold up (hello, failed Sharpie mugs). Also, if you go the craft route, it’s a good idea to make sure you have enough time to put it together, even if it’s simple. Confession: I’ve made Christmas crafts for friends in the parking lot of Dollar General because I was running late and forgot I needed glue. Don’t be me.