But I still love giving gifts.
You see my philosophy of gift-giving is simple: find something that makes the receiver’s heart sing. So, no pressure. I honestly think gifts should show you’ve been paying attention to the person you’re gifting. . . should make them feel known and appreciated. . . should let them know how much their preferences and delights matter to you. By that admittedly elevated standard, the “Hictory Farms” basket and “annual fruitcake” should be relegated to people you don’t know and/or can’t stand. Which begs the question of why you’re sending them a gift in the first place. Oh. Except the inlaws.
The problem is, the people who mean a great deal to me live many, many miles away these days and it’s harder and harder to keep up with the vagueries of their various tastes and desires. So, I call and talk and ferret and discern, and still half of the time I get it wrong. Even the wee ones are a problem: don’t they already have it, will it be educational, is it too complicated, too simple, too expensive, too cheap?
And then there’s the time involved. And the energy. The leisurely days of day-long shopping and lunching out with the girls are gone for now. My weekends are precious and two or three hours spent on tracking down one gift, store to store, is a real sacrifice. So I’ve taken to shortcuts. Internet. Catalogs. Catalogs ON the internet. It isn’t as much fun as the old day-out-shopping used to be, but it takes some of the worry and effort out of the process.
Some of my favorite catalogs are LLBean, Frontgate, Coldwater Creek, Solutions, Soft Surroundings, Uncomon Goods, Winter Silks, Young Explorers, and Land of Nod. (Those last two speak for themselves!) I’m also a fan of Pottery Barn, in all of its variations, and Williams Sonoma. But online, I also like Target and Nordstroms and Macy’s and Bloomingdales. And there’s the ever-popular E-Bay. These days I can even shop from my wireless phone!
So, I now have a system. List everyone I need to buy for and jot down ideas for what their favorites are. . . including things they’ve mentioned liking/wanting. Then I stockpile catalogs from the first of November to December 1st or so. And I sit down with my computer and the catalogs and start shopping. There are still phone calls to check on sizes, styles, and models but those are minor and quickly done. Everything I can order, I order. . . having things wrapped when possible and shipped. What I can’t find that way, I have to find on a quick strategic strike of a shopping trip. My standard is 1 hour, 1 present. And usually, if I’ve done my homework, I can get it done.
I used to think that “giftwrapping” charges were close to extortion. But if you count buying the paper and tape and ribbons and gift cards/tags. . . “3.99″ or “4.99″ starts to look a lot more reasonable. Especially when time is at a premium. I used to love wrapping presents. . . still do. But when you have to do all that AND pack to ship. . . well, it’s more time and expense than I’d like to invest. So when I can and when it’s reasonable, I have the store/mail order house do it for me. And I have more time to concentrate on things that matter at Christmas: visiting friends, preparing special treats, decorating the house, and– of course– working toward the looming deadline for a book.
What about you? How do you handle Christmas shopping? Any tips and short-cuts you can share? Or just general Christmas stuff you’d like to unload. . .