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5 Ways to Make Holiday Gift Giving Less Stressful

holiday gifts

Gift giving whether during the holidays or for an occasion can be very stressful. We stress over finding the ‘perfect’ gift. It can be stressful if a loved one has asked for a gift that is hard to find, very expensive, or in short supply. Then we stress over getting it to the recipient on time. So much stress! It is even more stressful during the holidays when people are already busy with decorating, baking, and hosting parties. We can make holiday gift giving less stressful by focusing on planning in advance and being organized.

Here are 5 things you can do to make holiday gift giving less stressful

Make a list of people you want to buy gifts for

Think about the people you want to give gifts to. You probably have a good idea of who is on your list. I know my list only changes when there is an addition to my family. In January, my son’s family size increased, his wife gave birth to a handsome little boy!

I exchange gifts with very few friends. These friends and I have been exchanging gifts for decades. My other friends and I are more likely to get together during the holidays for a nice lunch as a holiday celebration instead of exchanging gifts.

Ask for a list

I always ask my sons if there is something special on their wish list. Sometimes there is, which helps to make holiday gift giving less stressful. Other years, there is not. Then I get creative and hope for the best. Now that I have grandchildren, I ask if there is something the parents want the children to have.

Since we agree it is helpful to have a suggestion of what to get someone, if someone asks you what you would like, be prepared with an answer. Please don’t say, “I don’t know”. Everyone has something on their wish list!

Create a budget

Think about how much you want to spend this year on gifts. You don’t have to divide it up equally among the people for whom you are purchasing gifts. Just have a general idea of the total amount you want to dedicate to buying gifts and then stick to your budget.

Other kinds of gifts

Remember gifts do not always have to be purchased. You can give a gift of babysitting to a new mom. If cooking is your thing, gift a dinner or dessert made by you to a friend or family. Think about giving gifts of your time, talent, or experience. Often the most treasured gifts cost the least amount of money.

Create a spreadsheet or checklist

As you make gifts or shop for the people on your list, write their name on a checklist. Create a field to capture what the gift is and how much you spent, so it’s easy to stick to your budget. Sticking to your budget is another way to make holiday gift giving less stressful. It also reduces stress when you are sure you have a gift for everyone on your list. It’s always easy to shop for my sisters and difficult to shop for my brother!

Have another field to indicate that you wrapped and tagged the gift. I like to wrap and tag my gifts as soon as I have them. That reduces my stress and makes it easier when it comes time to send or deliver the packages.

Don’t let the thought of shopping and the whole gift giving process put a damper on the holidays for you. I love wandering the shops, looking at the decorations, and seeing what the stores are trying to entice me to buy. Sometimes their displays work. Other times I stay outside the store and enjoy the window-shopping experience.

Use these tips to make holiday gift giving less stressful. If you need help planning and prioritizing, consider signing up for our Clear Space for You clutter support group. Jonda Beattie and I start a new series at the beginning of each month.

Diane N. Quintana is a Certified Professional Organizer® ,a Certified Professional Organizer in Chronic Disorganization®, Master Trainer and owner of DNQ Solutions, LLC and co-owner of Release●Repurpose●Reorganize, LLC based in Atlanta, Georgia




  • I thought so too :).
    fashionplacemat –

  • First of all, congratulations on the new addition to your lovely family- a grandson! I love all the suggestions you made for making holiday gift-giving less stressful because we don’t need more stress now or at anytime. It seems obvious, but I don’t know how often we really ask the recipients what they want. That is so smart. When our kids were young, it was something we did. But it’s not something I do now, and maybe it would be good to begin that again. I also love your suggestion of gifting a time-related gift like babysitting or cooking a meal. Those are lovely, and I’m sure much-appreciated gifts. Deciding who you’ll be exchanging gifts with also makes sense. The fact that you and your friends enjoy a special meal together (sans gifts) IS a beautiful gift. You give each other time, attention, and a shared experience together.

    • Diane Quintana says:

      Thank you, Linda. I am soooo looking forward to spending time with my son and his family over Christmas. I am gifting my son and his wife a day together by taking care of the grandchildren while they go do something fun. Sort of like a date day.

  • I love that you added to add wrapped and tagged gifts in a spreadsheet. I will be adding that one to my checklist. =)

  • Gifts of service or time are such a great way to reduce clutter around the holidays! It doesn’t even have to be your own time or service, you can gift someone a deep home cleaning, or send a gift card for a restaurant you know they go to frequently. Less holiday clutter, less stress!

    • Diane Quintana says:

      Absolutely! I sometimes give one of my sons a gift card to Whole Foods as I know he likes to shop there.

  • As I get older I want less AND I also want to give less. So I’m trying to be thoughtful with gift-giving. I just told my son last night that I’d pay for his needed car repair for his birthday gift. He really appreciated that! I’d rather give him something he needs than something that will become clutter.
    I also tend to give gift cards to nieces and nephews so they can get something they want.

    • Diane Quintana says:

      That’s a great gift, Janet. I agree – I would rather give something needed and useful than more clutter.

  • Lucy Kelly says:

    “…if someone asks you what you would like, be prepared with an answer. Please don’t say, “I don’t know”. Everyone has something on their wish list!” Oh, I couldn’t agree more! I’m not a gifted gift giver, I need all the help I can get! I’ve started telling my family that if they tell me, “I don’t know”, they’ll be getting tube socks.

    • Diane Quintana says:

      That’s great, Lucy. I’m so glad to hear you say that because I’d hate to think I’m the only one who needs a little help when it somes to giving gifts!

  • Julie+Bestry says:

    In terms of a list, my sister really has this down. She will only buy me something for Hanukkah on my Amazon wish list. Of course, she also refuses to buy me anything off that list that she thinks is “boring,” but the point is, if it’s not on the list, she just waits until my birthday and then gets gets me two (non-boring) gifts. 😉 In the era before Amazon, she ones went my whole college experience without giving me holiday or birthday gifts and then gave me a big one for graduation from grad school. I suppose that doesn’t work for everyone, but she’s got her method down-pat!

    Since we don’t celebrate Christmas and because our family is small and kidless, holiday gift giving is easy these days, but back when I bought gifts for all of my friend’s little ones, a wish list, budget, and spreadsheet were definitely necessities!

  • Sara Skillen says:

    I LOVE your suggestion of asking the parents if there is something they want their children to have. I’ve seen things given that are either waaay overboard in terms of cost or quantity, or totally in opposition to a family’s values. Giving a gift shouldn’t put a burden on the parents. I also loved it when someone gave our kids an experience as opposed to a thing. Great post with great suggestions!

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