Playing Santa:

Six Steps for Sane and Successful Shopping This Holiday Season

 My friend, let’s call her Anne, because that’s her name, is a stellar holiday gift-giver. In early November, Anne makes a list of thoughtful presents and creates a budget for buying. Come Black Friday and Cyber Monday, she capitalizes on the sales without veering from the plan. She wraps the gifts, sets them out when time, and that’s that. Anne is a bit of a unicorn in the world of holiday shopping. Whether you’re a rare species like Anne, closely evolving to be one, or still emerging from the ocean of over-consumption, here are helpful steps for making the most of your time, money, and energy while playing Santa this holiday season.


  1. Money, honey.

You’ve worked hard all year to earn an income and protect your savings. You can continue to honor your financial goals while spreading holiday cheer. Before spending a penny on your thoughts by impulse shopping, determine your budget for gift-buying. No need to break it down to how much for this person or that person yet, instead come up with the maximum lump sum for the entire crew of recipients that won’t zap your spirit when you look at your credit card statement in January.


  1. Make a list, and check it twice.

Write down who you purchased gifts for last year. Add names of new people who entered your close circle this past year who you’d like to give a present to. Next, write the true reason you’d like to give them a present. Ex: they gave me a present last year, it’s customary at my work to give the boss/the assistant/the team member a gift, I married/gave birth to/was raised by/am dating them. Now sleep on it. The next day, look at the list and see whom you’d still like to give a gift to. Cross off any people where you wrote of reason of obligation versus appreciation.


  1. Brainstorm.

Those left on the list are special to you so think about what they find to be special. In order to land on a good gift, consider the following questions:

  • How do they spend their days?
  • Where do they spend their days?
  • With whom do they spend their days?
  • What were they doing the last time you saw them having fun?
  • What were they wearing the last time you saw them happy and confident?
  • Can you remember them saying they love a certain person, place, or thing?
  • What do they often talk about?
  • What is something that they said they’d like that would make their lives easier?


  1. Match your budget to your brainstorm.

Use answers from the brainstorming exercise to come up with gift ideas customized to each person on your list. Do an Internet search to find out price. Adjust your gift list accordingly to stay within your budget. If you get stumped, run your ideas by others to finalize the shopping plan without blowing your budget. It is tempting to spend “just a little more” when shopping…to keep with your plan, think how many hours you worked to earn the amount of money it will take to buy a certain gift, then consider if you would work that same amount of time again if someone wasn’t going to pay you in money but was instead going to pay you in that gift to give. It helps us think twice: “Thank you for your hard work all day. Here’s an adult onesie with bunnies on it as a gag gift for your sister.”


  1. Details, details.

In whatever stealth way you can manage, find out key things to ensure the gift fits, literally and figuratively. Find out their size, if they have one already, if they tried one before and didn’t like it, if they’re still going to the place/doing the activity that it would be used for.


  1. Commit.

Once you’ve got your list of people to buy for, your budget, and the customized gifts picked out, buy them and move on. All this planning for gift-buying is meant to take the stress away from holiday shopping frenzy, not feed into it. Take a deep breath, congratulate yourself on the time and effort you put into coming up with a custom gift, and remember whether you get the reaction you anticipate or not upon giving it, it’s true that it’s the thought that counts.