During the Christmas season many people feel a lot of stress about finding gifts during that time crunch. They are trapped between costs beyond their budget and the appropriateness of the gift selected. Too often they end up just getting "something" as a generic gift at the last minute. Look at how many people are shopping late Christmas Eve. This advice should help you whether you start shopping in July or on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving.
Five Love Languages
Gifts can be very important to some people, especially if their personal "love language" is gift giving. How about yourself? Visit your library and read one of the series of books by Gary Chapman, starting with The Five Love Languages. Is your "love language" quality time, affirmative words, acts of service, physical touch, or giving gifts? Even more important, what is the "love language" of the person for whom you want to choose a gift?
Planning ahead for each person on your gift list can really make this Christmas a choice memory for everyone. Go beyond making a list of names. Put each name on the top of a sheet of paper and write down everything you know about them or can find out from others. What kind of work does this person do? What hobbies or sports are enjoyed? Where do they go for vacations and why? What are they doing when just relaxing? How do they prefer to dress? Do they eat out, and what kind of food do they like? Learn their favorite color, book, movie, music, picture, flower, candy, magazine, game, charity, and anything else you can discover. Have they been overheard saying they wished they had something specific? Ask those closest to the person for more information, especially regarding their "love language."
You're not ready for a rush to the mall yet. How about a more personal touch; handmade gifts or personal services? What are your talents and abilities? How might you offer one of your special traits as a gift? Do you paint, sing, write poetry or stories, dance, play a musical instrument, use a computer, visit book stores and computer sites, burn CD's, collect stamps, records, rocks, make jewelry, have a woodworking shop, know how to do plumbing or electrical work, repair sheet rock holes or roof leaks, or anything you can think of about yourself? Write down everything about you.
Now match up as many of the things or areas of interest between you and each person's list of characteristics. Remember to plan time to make the gifts if that is what you want to do. Stay within your budget as well, whether buying supplies for the handmade items or purchasing the gifts at a store.
Don't be afraid to give a personalized "rain check." Is there a room that needs a new coat of paint, and you can do it on your day off? Well, just give a card with the offer inside, and make the arrangements later. For just the right person, a note offering "Breakfast in Bed" could be a great gift.
Even a simple gift of candy can be something special. Have you ever heard of healthy chocolate, the kind with the patented cold press processing? Not only does it taste good, it's naturally full of antioxidants so it's good for you.
Examples of successful gift giving:
About 30 years ago I was working for a building contractor, and in our conversation I learned that he liked to read westerns, and thought he was descended from a Texan known as Shanghai Pierce. When I later received a book catalog containing a biography of ol' Shanghai, I ordered the book and checked with his wife about the date of his birthday since Christmas was far away. His birthday was closer, and that's when I offered the present. His comment upon seeing the title was, "Where on earth did you find this?" I'm sure he enjoyed a character summation Shanghai sometimes made of acquaintances he met, "Big hat - No cattle."
My grandparents moved to Arkansas at retirement age, and built a restaurant which they ran for another 10 years. From a photograph I was able to paint a watercolor picture of the restaurant after they sold it. That picture hung prominently on their wall until they died.
One Christmas our family pooled funds for a special gift for "Mommy." She had a box under the tree, and inside it a series of smaller boxes to open in turn. Finally the smallest box contained a drawn picture of a mountain bike. The real one was outside on the porch.
Gifts that you buy don't have to be new. If you make a habit of hitting yard sales, estate sales, and auctions you might find something of great value for a small fraction of its value. Recently I heard a story from a friend about a tie he bought at a yard sale. He was wearing it once when speaking to the owner of a top quality clothing store. He was told that the tie was worth about $500.00. He had bought it for under $1.00. In my own experience, I've bought unused motorcycle boots for $1.00, a sewing machine for $2.00, and picked up step ladders and extension ladders for free.
If you are willing to search the web, you can buy things that way. Most companies have some kind of website. Shopping on the computer can save you money spent on gas or missed bargains. One of my daughters just had her first baby, and her husband had already researched "diapers", even checking forums for advice, before purchasing what he considered the best buy in quality, overall cost, and hygiene.
Pawn shops won't offer "give away" opportunities, but they will have items priced cheaper than the brand new price. Keep in mind that pawn shops often specialize in one area of expertise. It may be jewelry, tools, electronics, musical instruments, automotive parts and vehicles, or anything else. Become aware of the types of items carried by any specific pawn shop. Develop a friendship with the owner and learn about the valuable items he likes to collect.
Second hand stores or consignment shops are like pawn shops in that things won't be given away. Usually they deal more in clothing, but some stretch into other areas. Get to know the owners and when you come up with a specific item you want as a gift for a certain person, you can turn these people loose in all their regular purchasing trips finding things just for you. That saves you many hours of searching, and they are grooming you as a potential customer.
Think of yourself as the President of a gift giving company, and all your friends and contacts are your board of directors. You have your people you want gifts for, and a detailed description of their likes and interests which you share with the board members. They in turn search for the gifts that fit each person. This method of acquiring presents for those on your gift list probably won't result in you having the perfect gift for everyone, but you'll end up with many more successful ideas than failures. So make your shopping experience this season a happy one, where the "thank you" is sincerely spoken. Maybe you'll even get a big hug as someone whispers in your ear, "Where on earth did you find this? I've wanted one for years!"