The Almighty Gift List
If there’s one thing that keeps my sanity in the holiday season, it is the gift list. This is not your ordinary throw-away list like a weekly grocery shopping list. It has become an invaluable resource throughout the year, as well as a record of giving through years past.
Every year since around the time my kids were born, I’ve keep an electronic gift list as a note on my PDA and now my phone, which is synced to my computer. At the beginning of the year, I make a copy of the list from the prior year, keeping all the names and erasing all the gifts. The list includes both gifts given as well as gifts received. It has holiday gifts as well as birthday gifts. Each gift to give has a marking for idea(*) and bought(+).
Before you think that I’m obsessed with all things material, it is definitely more of an organizational disorder. To me, there’s nothing worse that finding and purchasing the perfect gift for someone early in the year, safely stowing it in the attic, and then completely forgetting about it during the mad rush of the holidays, only to buy another mediocre gift for them. The only way to remember that you’ve bought something months ago is to write it into your gift list! Can you tell I’ve been burned?
Having a gift list at the beginning of the year also allows you to think about and buy gifts throughout the year. Who hasn’t wandered the stores looking for gift ideas on December 24th? At that point, you just pick anything just to get out of the store, and it is a waste of time, money and effort. Having a list doesn’t guarantee a quality gift, but it does help you think about it before the 11th hour. Sometimes we come up with several great gift ideas for someone, and I save it as an idea for next year. Don't forget that all gifts don't have to be purchased. Add your knitting projects and homemade gifts to the list as well!
I wish I could say that I am organized enough to get all my shopping done before Thanksgiving, but I’m still human. Having the gift list handy on my phone allows me to get through the holiday crowds without losing my mind. I can easily see who has presents purchased and who has a huge blank spot. Once something is purchased, I immediately write it into the list (looking like a texting fool, but it works).
Another gotcha is forgetting someone that you should buy for. At the beginning of the year, when the yearly list is created, names are gathered and culled. These include relatives and friends that are easy to remember, but also easy to forget service providers including teachers, bus drivers, coaches, music teachers, baby sitters, housekeepers, hair dressers, mail carriers, waste collectors, etc. Check out this great guide to holiday tipping for service providers.
And why would I keep a list of gifts that we’ve received? One, for the rare occasion where we re-gift an item. In that case, it is important not the make the ultimate faux pas of re-gifting to the same person or to a friend of the original giver, who may find out. It’s also a great trip down memory lane. We were recently wondering how old our oldest goldfish was. Since we got him when we received an aquarium as a gift for my daughter, I simply looked in our old gift lists and saw that we received the aquarium in 2007 and the goldfish is nearly two years old. Finally, when one of our kids receive a cool present, it becomes a great idea for gifts for other kids. Of course, all the gifts received on the list include from whom, so we don’t appear to do faux pas number one.
If you’re gadget and organizationally inclined, try the electronic gift list. You may have your best holiday shopping season yet.
Contributing editor Angela blogs about her “obsessive organizational disorder” at mommy bytes.