Now that the holiday season has begun, here’s a question for you: What’s your process for presents? Do you have a to-do list for the many, many, many things to remember this holiday season? Do you have some things set on repeat, or do you delegate some holiday tasks?
Here’s what my present to-do list looks like, but I’d love to hear yours…
My Quick Holiday Gift-Giving To Do List
- (Holiday cards, if those can be counted as a present, but we often give them with small gifts to other people on the list, so I try to think of those first… miracle of miracles we actually ordered our cards for the year before Thanksgiving. I’m on team “cute pictures from past year,” not “team photoshoot,” but that’s me — that’s a whole separate discussion that deserves its own post!)
- Business-related gifts
- Gift baskets for distant family
- Holiday tips for cleaning service and other service professionals around home, such as doormen & super
- Holiday thank-yous and small token gift cards for kid-related professionals (teachers, coaches, babysitters, therapists, tutors)
- Stocking stuffers for family members
- Presents for in-laws
- (Presents for kids, husband)
- (Fleeting thoughts — before I “nope” them: Christmas cookies or crafts for anyone beyond immediate family, bottles of wine to give with tips and holiday thank-yous…)
Longer thoughts below…
We’ve written a lot in the past about business-related gifts, including what to get your assistant for the holidays, secretary gift ideas, and whether you should buy a holiday gift for your boss (short answer: no). Here’s all of our holiday business etiquette advice if you’re looking!
Gift Baskets for Distant Family
We always exchange gift baskets with my husband’s aunt and uncle in Texas, and pretty much as soon as Thanksgiving passes I feel like it’s appropriate to send them something. I try to vary it and choose a different local business to support and spoil them with (one year they got a ton of stuff from Momofuku Milk Bar, for example) but sometimes it’s just a Harry & David basket.
Holiday Thank-You Tips
In some years these holiday thank-you tips really add up, in part because a lot of these gifts are cash and may be fairly substantial. In years past I’ve kept a spreadsheet to remember what I gave to people in previous years, both so we can be consistent with what we give and whom we give to, as well as plan for where the money needs to be. I typically include a family holiday card, but occasionally I’ll do a non-family holiday card and/or a bottle of wine or other small gift.
Kid-Related Holiday Thank-Yous
Teacher gifts and gifts for other people who work with the kids — this category is always the hardest for me, because I feel it’s so tough to truly express my gratitude to them! I know one mom who buys those tiny canvases from an art store for $1–$2 each and has her kids make paintings or other crafts, which is a lovely idea, but I don’t know if we’ll get it together enough to do that this year. (I also imagine that while they may really like my kid, over several years the number of kid-related art adds up.) Last year I tried to write heartfelt thank-yous with the holiday cards and gave a small gift card to Target or Amazon — but, like I said, they fall woefully short of expressing my gratitude.
Stocking Stuffer Ideas
I probably spend too much time on stocking stuffers, but this is one of the things that’s largely on my shoulders, so I don’t want to disappoint. I feel like kids and others often enjoy the smallest gifts the most, and they’re great for hitting those minor interests. For example, my husband loves all things jalapeño — so I often go to Amazon Prime and order all the crazy stuff that is jalapeño-flavored that I wouldn’t normally pay for (Fritos! nuts! ketchup!). Other ideas are small spice mixes (Trader Joe’s Everything but the Bagel seasoning, Penzeys Fox Point, whatever) as well as new spatulas or other cooking utensils. I try to avoid giving the single-use cooking utensils, but I feel like every cook occasionally needs one nice new spatula or spoon rest or whatever to update older ones that may be looking a little well-loved. Socks or underwear tend to go in this bucket as well.
Thoughts on Presents for In-Laws, Parents, and Brother
I do tend to have a budget of $150 or so for each parent and in-law, as well as something small for aunts or uncles who may be celebrating the day with us. I’ll admit, sometimes I punt and get a gift card (my dad really liked his gift card to Home Depot, and I thiiiink my MIL is excited for her gift card to REI to buy kayaking gear). I try to think “upgrade” in general, though — sure, they have sheets for their bed, but will they spend the money on themselves on fancy flannel sheets from Garnet Hill? Of course they have a vacuum, but did they know the Dyson is cordless, or the Roomba works automatically? My MIL has cats (many, many cats), so every year I try to remember to get something nice for them as well.
One of my Facebook friends always posts these adorable little handmade ornament crafts that she makes en masse, often involving handprints, and while I’m not sure we could do those for holiday gifts for all the kid-related professionals, I really would like to start doing some for my parents, in-laws, and brother. (I Heart Arts n Crafts seems to have a great roundup here for keepsake Christmas ornaments if this sounds like something you want to do.)
Default Reciprocal Gift
You know how you may exchange gifts with someone in a particular year, and then the next year you don’t (or maybe you come with a gift but they don’t), and then you’re not really sure what to do in year #3? I find it helpful to keep a small gift card and holiday card in my purse if I’m on foot, or to stick a bottle of wine or whiskey in the car if we’re driving to see friends — so then we’re ready if someone surprises me/us with a gift. Somewhere in our coat closet I have a gift bag with a random holiday candle, fuzzy pair of socks, and several tea bags that was themed as a “cozy night in” that we won at some charity event, and I thought, “ah, this is a great default gift!” (Kate directed me to this SNL skit about the Christmas candle that is hilarious and totally on point!)
Why My Kids Aren’t Really On My Holiday Gift-Giving To Do List
I kind of don’t make a point to pick presents for my kids. I stink. I know. The thing is, both sets of grandparents love going nuts with presents and showering both kids with far, far, far too many presents. As in, we have 10+ toys from last Christmas still sitting new in the box and/or haven’t even been looked at or played with since last Christmas. (And even more from birthday presents!) When I was growing up, I know that my parents had budgets for both me and my brother, and they would try to buy an equal(ish) amount of presents and buy enough/until the budget was met… but I just kind of buy things for my kids as I see them and think they would like them, and those become “Santa” gifts. Mean mommy.
I know some parents have one day or night where they go to the store and pick presents for their kids — we might do that by having a quick conversation about a trip we want to take the kids on (water park, theme park, whatever) in order to book it, but I don’t think the kids really recognize that as their “present” because they don’t really realize the cost associated with it.
Why My Husband Isn’t Really On My Holiday Gift-Giving To Do List
Ugh, men, amiright? They never want anything. So… I kind of don’t buy him anything either. I know, I am looking like a PEACH in this post. But I make all of his clothing purchases throughout the year, and he buys the odd book or game that he wants. He and I just took a “long date”/mini-vacation to New Orleans, just the two of us, and that was kind of a fabulous present to ourselves. We’re also at that age where we might pick something really nice for Casa Griffin (a new painting or a new light fixture or something) and call it a day. The idea of buying and wrapping up socks or underwear or something just so he has something to unwrap is less than appealing.
That my holiday gift-giving to-do list — what does YOURS look like?
All images via Stencil.