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Tips to Simplify Your Holiday Shopping List Tips to Simplify Your Holiday Shopping List
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Tips to Simplify Your Holiday Shopping List

Insights & Ideas Team •  November 20, 2015 | Home and Family

Last year, a survey from the American Research Institute found that average Americans estimated they’d spend $861 on holiday gifts. That’s $60 more than the year before. And the 2015 holiday season may soon bring another increase in average spending. Those dollars are spent on finding the perfect gifts—gifts that can bring smiles, create memories and let people know they are truly cared for. But if you’re a busy person fighting the holiday hustle and bustle, it can be hard to know whom to buy for, what to buy and how much to spend. These are some tips to help demystify your holiday shopping list:

Teachers and daycare workers: The younger the child, the more common it is to give a gift. Homemade gifts and gift cards are common and very much appreciated. Stick to a $10–$20 limit for gift cards, and think of places they would frequent: coffee shops, school supply stores, big box retailers and even the local grocery store.

Service professionals (postal carriers, newspaper delivery people, garbage collector, hair stylists): This group typically receives monetary gifts. For postal carriers, gifts must be $20 or less per federal regulations. Garbage workers may have similar rules to follow based on your local municipality. For other folks whom you do not normally tip, a gift of $20–$50 is appropriate, depending on the level of service. For those you already tip, it’s common to increase your tip during the holiday season. These gifts could consist of half the cost of a service you typically receive. If you have a long history with your service professional, that amount may go even higher.

Nanny or someone who works inside your home: It is common to gift these people one week’s pay and include a separate, small gift. Smaller items could include things like a gift card to one of their favorite stores, a scarf/mitten set or something simple that shows you have a personal relationship despite that person also being an employee.

Business colleagues: Gifting among colleagues is generally frowned upon, but it is always best to check with a co-worker or long-standing employee to know for certain how your company handles the holidays. Instead of gifts, consider going out to lunch together or planning a potluck for everyone to enjoy. Some offices do maintain a tradition of a gift exchange. If that is the case for you, establish a price range everyone is comfortable with—$25 is fairly standard. Gift cards are appropriate here as well.

Family: Most families have long-standing gift traditions. The beginning of the holiday season is a great time to revisit those traditions to determine if they still feel right for your family. If you’d like to shake things up, there are many alternatives to buying each family member a gift. Consider a Secret Santa system, giving only homemade gifts, buying gifts only for the children or putting money toward an outing during a future family vacation.

If you have a large extended family, consider suggesting a gift exchange. Gifts to extended family should typically be purchased items, not homemade. And beware of re-gifting; trying it with family means you need to be 100 percent certain the gift did not originate from anyone in this circle.

In-laws: When selecting gifts for in-laws, defer to the gifting traditions of the spouse whose parents are in question. This may mean extending a budget if one side of the family spends more than the other. It is better to try to assimilate into each other’s holiday customs than to force an entire family into the mold you have pre-established.

Friends: Many friends start gifting traditions and then get stuck in the routine. If over time you find your priorities changing, it may be appropriate to suggest a change to tradition as well. Why not suggest everyone get together for an evening? You can show these people how much they mean to you by carving out the gift of time to create more memories and relive old ones.

Kids’ friends: Children, especially younger children, can get caught up in the toy and gifting frenzy that surrounds nearly every aspect of the holidays. They may want to get gifts for each of their friends, but that isn’t always practical. If you are looking for a way to celebrate with your child’s friends, encourage a holiday crafting party during which you pop on fun music and create ornaments to give as gifts to family or to charity. You can recruit other parents to pitch in with holiday-themed treats and snacks.

Extra-special kids: These are your friends’ children, godchildren or those children in your life that you feel like you have an extra connection with. Seek guidance from their parents to determine if a gift would be appropriate and well received. Godchildren may enjoy something of religious significance to remind them of the unique role you play in their lives.

Re-gifting: Re-gifting is an enigma. It can be brilliant. When done well, you save money and make someone smile. But when re-gifting goes wrong, it can go really wrong. If you are going to try re-gifting, try attaching a label to any gift you are “saving” to re-gift later. That label should include who gave you the gift, what the occasion was and the date it was received. When you select that item to re-gift to someone else, make sure the original giver and the new receiver will not be aware. Good luck!

With the hustle and bustle of the holiday season not far off, it’s easy to get caught up in the stress and frenzy of the season, but if you go into this time with a great game plan (and stick to it), you just may come out smiling on the other side.

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