It’s Christmas time, that time of the year when you see your closest friends and catch up with people you haven’t seen in ages. It’s also known to be one of the most stressful times of the year - from surviving holiday traffic aka “carmaggedon”, to braving packed malls and supermarkets, and of course indulging relatives you don’t get along with. It’s doubly stressful for procrastinators like me, who put off holiday shopping until the last few days - or worst yet, completely forget people that should be on my gift list and then end up scrambling to find something a day or even hours before seeing them.
In the spirit of the 12 Days of Christmas, here are twelve mindful tips for last minute gift giving. And yes, I’m fully aware it’s difficult to be minimaluxe and mindful as Christmas bears down on you!
I’ve liberally borrowed some concepts from one of my son’s favorite book series: Scaredy Squirrel by Melanie Watt, specifically “Scaredy Squirrel Prepares for Christmas.”
One Week to Go - Panic Level: Green
Symptoms may include sweatiness, headache, and lightheadedness
At the one week mark, creeping panic may begin to rear its ugly head. But fear not, modern technology is here to the rescue.
1. Do your Naughty and Nice list. Good Christmas planners like my wife probably completed this task in August and they’ve wrapped everything up by the end of November at the latest. But for us procrastinators, it’s time to quickly type your Christmas presents list on Numbers, Excel or Google Spreadsheets..
Jot down any ideas that immediately pop into your head about each person i.e. for bookworms: bestsellers, for diehard partygoers: booze, or for stressed out types: a spa gift certificate.
2. Avoid the crowds and open your favorite shopping app or website. We love Amazon Prime’s free 2 day shipping. In the United States, Amazon now has same day shipping. There are other online stores that guarantee delivery before Christmas, but you may just pay a slightly higher fee. And the best part is some stores will gift wrap and deliver the presents directly to your recipients!
In the Philippines, e-commerce might not be as established as Amazon, but there are many same day delivery services like Lalamove and Transportify, which you can ask the vendor about to be sure items are delivered ASAP.
Last year we did last minute gifts for the staff of our condominium building by ordering gift baskets on Honestbee which came already wrapped. Easy peasy.
3. One person’s trash is another person’s treasure. Re-gifting has a negative connotation - the classic example being fruit cake, which they say in the Philippines is the gift that keeps on giving. The fact is that everyone has been gifted something that doesn’t suit their taste or lifestyle.
I’d like to propose a change in mindset here: What was given to you is a gift, and whether that item is useful to you as it is, turned into cash or re-gifted is up to you. Think of re-gifting as giving an unused gift a new lease on life, instead of languishing in your cupboard. Remember when something is stored for too long, it falls apart and ends up in the landfill, so it’s better to find a new owner immediately who will use and love it.
The unused gift might not be your style, but can perfectly suit a loved one. After all taste is relative. Just make sure that the recycled gift won’t be seen by the original sender!
4. If you’re really stumped and don’t know what to give, ask your intended recipient for help. This is a recurring problem faced by my dad when he’s looking for a gift for my mom, but it could also apply to friends who seem to have everything, or are decluttering. If you let the person know you’re getting stressed about their gift, it shows that you find them important so they’re likely to be helpful in giving some tips or at least share their wishlist with you.
The Weekend Before Christmas - Panic Level Orange
Symptoms may include a racing heart, feeling weak, and/or dizziness
5. It’s time to brave the crowds - but simplify your purchases. It’s crunch time. You don’t have enough time to order online, but don’t aimlessly wander around malls, instead go to stores which are familiar so you are in and out quickly:
Specialty Bookstores like Fully Booked have a lot of gift ideas
If you want to splurge then plan a trip to the jewelry store, or Apple Store
Wake up early and try to get to the mall before the lunch and post-lunch crowds descend.
6. Go for quality over size or quantity. Nice gifts don’t have to be branded or expensive, but neither should they be the cheapest available “made in China” option, that will soon go to the landfill after one use. Something small but well-made is better than big junk. Personally, I would appreciate the smallest well-made and -wrapped chocolate praline than useless, cheap clutter.
The objective is to get a gift that will be valued, used and consumed. My favorite stores that have a cross-section of price points include Uniqlo, H&M, Muji, Kultura, and Fully Booked.
7. Go Local. You can also try to go local - from houseware, jewelry, stationery, to food - they all tell a unique story and help support local communities. For example, we love getting baby products and even coffee from HumanHeartNature, an affordable brand in most retailers which uses 100% natural materials and employs people from underprivileged communities. You can find them in Echo Store with many other sustainable gift options. Natural baskets make for great boxes that are reusable. Tie a bow around it and it’s ready for gifting.
Check out Christmas bazaars and Markets in your area for a range of local brands in one convenient location.
8. Since time is of the essence, buy multiples of the same item. At this stage, you can’t be too picky especially if you have to get a lot of gifts. Go to your favorite stores and identify gifts (see above) that you think an average man, woman or child would find appealing and buy multiples. Give a family gift instead of individual gifts to each person.
You can also visit a garden store, get multiple plants, tie a bow and pop on a card. Even the tiniest plant or succulent is a gift of happiness and health that can change the mood of anyone’s space.
9. Go, Go for Food. I love the gift of food because this doesn’t add to the recipient’s clutter and is always useful in the season of entertaining. Food can range from food baskets from delicatessens or a small box of sweets, to a bottle of wine. Be sure to note properly, how it must be stored so they don’t end up with ants under the tree.
If you don’t have time to go yourself, then a shopping concierge service like Honestbee is perfect because you have many stores to choose from and they can deliver within a few hours.
A Couple of Hours Before Your Party - Panic Level Red
Symptoms may include breathing difficulties, loss of vision, and chest pains
10. Give a digital subscription. With only hours left, you can back to where we started and visit some popular websites and apps. You can give “digital” gifts, from premium subscriptions to Spotify or the New York Times, to Audible books. This gifting can be done in a few minutes - and it can prove to be an easy match for a lot of people, who are either book worms, audiophiles, or couch potatoes.
11. The Flower Shop and Liquor Store. This sort of goes back to an earlier tip. But if you’re pressed for time, flowers, a box of chocolate truffles, or a bottle of quality wine are decent gifts for any occasion.
12. Give Cash. This can strike a cultural nerve in places like the United States but in Asia, giving cash is well received, especially for kids, because of the practice of giving Ampao. This QZ.com article makes a good case for giving cash instead of a gift card. Give equal the amount that you’re willing to give in gift card form. Place it in a nice envelope with a handwritten note.
If all else fails…
It might be worthwhile to think about “playing dead” in Scaredy Squirrel’s terms. Skip that office or school party and simplify your social engagements.