The holidays are approaching quickly, and this time of year can become so overwhelming… especially for those of us who typically do all the shopping for gifts (and probably everything else)! Even though Christmas is my favorite holiday, I can’t help but get rattled when “crunch time” hits. One year my husband made a slight error in judgment and said to me, “Why do you get so stressed out every year in December? Christmas always turns out great!”
Insert Look of Death and then this exasperated response:
“Yeah, because I MAKE IT THAT WAY!! I’m the reason we all wake up Christmas morning, and just like magic, everything is somehow done! It’s like a Christmas miracle!”
He might have been smart enough to stay quiet at that point as he backed away from me slowly…
Yes, we shoppers have a lot on our plate. I’ve tried to spread some of the work around to my hubby, but let’s be honest—he got me blue and white dolphin earrings one year… that dangled. Enough said. (Sometimes I wonder if he shopped poorly on purpose early in our marriage to get out of these jobs as time went on?! If so, all I can say is, “Well played, my friend… well played…”)
As we’ve had more kids and they have gotten older, the gift-giving has gotten even harder to manage. With each child comes more gifts to buy obviously… but that also means more teachers to buy for, sometimes a coach, a kids’ Christmas party, reciprocal gifts that evolve over time, etc. Just in general, gifts always seem to multiply every year.
After some panicked moments over the years when I have dropped the ball on occasion, I finally created a shopping spreadsheet, and man, has it helped me out! * Find a blank Excel spreadsheet here that you can download and fill in. Not only do I not forget gifts anymore, but I can also reference past lists to ensure that I don’t duplicate a gift by mistake and give someone a gift I’ve already given them previously!
Read below for the 6 reasons why I swear by my new system:
1. Never Forget a Gift Again!
After I created my first list back in 2005 using Excel, I simply copied that list and moved it into a new tab within the same document (which I then named 2006) the following year. Each year I have copied the latest list over into a new tab, and then I simply clear the gifts and start filling the form in again as I make purchases. Now, I have a single workbook with various tabs along the bottom for each year’s list going back as far as 2005. As I copy the new list over, all the people we gave gifts to the previous year come with it! I never forget anyone again… not even the mail carrier!
To make a copy of your list in Excel: Right-click on its tab on the bottom of your screen. Choose “move or copy.” A small box pops up. Click the box that says “create copy” and choose to move it in front of your current list. That’s it! To rename your newly-moved list, simply right-click on that tab and click “rename.” Enter the current year.
Right-click tip: If you don’t know how to right-click with your touch-screen “mouse” (like I have), right-clicking is done by holding down your second and third fingers simultaneously, and then you touch your thumb down to create a “right-click.” If that’s not working, you might need to go into your computer’s “mouse settings” and click to allow that action.
2. You Won’t Duplicate Past Gifts
As you keep creating new copies of your list, the old lists still remain. I can go back each year and see what I got every person. That way I know I am switching things up! For example, I love to give books to kids (always the perfect gift if you ask me!), and we have a few favorites that we like to share. But it can be hard to remember over time if I have already given someone that exact book. Now I just go back and peek so I know for sure that the gift will be “new” to the recipient!
3. Jot Down Ideas Before the Christmas Season
I often copy my list into its new tab well before shopping season officially hits. That doesn’t mean that I’m on the ball and already shopping, though, of course! (in my dreams…) But I will start jotting down ideas as they come to me. How many times do you come up with an idea, but by the time you need to actually do the gift-giving, you can’t remember what in the world your “perfect” idea was?! Now I can keep those ideas handy! People will sometimes say, “How did you remember… I mentioned that so long ago!” That’s always fun when you can give a gift you know they will love or need but would never expect!
4. Keep Track of Purchases
We shoppers are always hiding our purchases, so it can be really easy to lose track of what we have already bought since the bags are stashed in every corner in the house! If you are keeping up with your purchases on your spreadsheet, you will have a better handle on things. This also helps you to keep things “even” among your children. I know with four girls, I am paranoid about making sure they each have the same number of things to open. My handy list now makes that easy to do!
5. Remember Gifts Bought Online
I have started buying more and more gifts online (like these 25 personalized gifts for kids) because not only does that save me time and stress (since I’m not fighting crowds at the mall), but there is often free shipping involved. For someone who lives nowhere near any relatives, that really adds up! Not to mention all the time it takes to wrap, box, and actually ship everything myself… I love how online shopping gives me time back in my day during the busy holiday season!
If you jot down “done” in your spreadsheet next to that person’s name after ordering online, you can feel confident that all is complete! In the chaos of parties, baking, wrapping (love this personalized photo gift wrap!), sending out Christmas cards, and so on, we can easily question ourselves: “Wait, I DID order that gift, didn’t I?!” And then you’re suddenly up late, digging through zillions of emails as you look for an order confirmation. Save yourself from having to keep track of every last detail in your mind… keeping a spreadsheet like this will make your life so much easier!
6. Reference Monetary Gifts (Tips) You’ve Given in the Past
Each year I try to remember people like our mail carrier, newspaper delivery person, hairdresser, lawn mower, etc. with a tip. I even give my “grocery shopper” who picks out all our food for us (I’m a big fan of online grocery shopping!!) a Christmas card with a note in it and a tip (because the grocery store asks you not to tip for the service each time you shop—so I give her a little something around the holidays.) She makes my life so much easier all year long, and I want her to know how much I appreciate her!
I know that what might seem like a small amount to each of us as individuals can really add up for them, and most of these people really rely on a bump in income around the holidays to help them manage the rest of the year. I even keep track of these tips in my spreadsheet. Not only does that help me remember people like this, but I can also see what amount I gave in the past so I can repeat that again.
If you give this system a try, I hope you’ll be feeling more organized and less stressed in no time! The holiday season really should be such a special time for everyone… even for those of us who normally do EVERYTHING! :)
Happy Shopping, my friends! (Not to freak you out, but as I write this, there are already only 45 days until Christmas… yikes!)
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