November 19, 2008

Gift Season Pre-Panic

I think giveaways are so fun. But I get all CAUGHT UP in the excitement of doing one, and then afterward I think, "Yes, but I could have kept that for MYSELF." I'm doing a giveaway at Milk and Cookies for a $10 Barnes & Noble gift card. That would be a nice teacher gift. If someone named "Thistle" wins it, you'll know I had a change of heart about giving it away.

Would you indulge me in a brief panicky rant? I'm getting stressed/excited about gift season. There are so many DEALS to wade through. There are so many DECISIONS to make. I think, "YES, I'll do THAT!" and I get halfway through the order process---and oh, if I spend another $10 I'll get a $20 gift card for free. Well, that's worth it. Except I can't find anything that's about $10. Well, okay, so here's something that's $15: it's still like saving $5 and getting the $15 item for free. Well, if I can find a use for the gift card. Then: oh, if I add another $5 I'll get free shipping, and shipping is $11.95 so that's definitely worth it. Except I can't find anything that's about $5. ACK.

I am trying to COOL DOWN and not stress so much. I've read a few articles lately that advise spending more time with family and friends instead of spending money, but time is in short supply as well. And when those articles say "time," they often seem to be selling accessories: special popcorn bowls, special DVDs, special household decorations, special dishes, special recipes with brand ingredients. I mistrust their motivations, even if their message is a good one.

We tried to lower the stress by getting a Wii as a family gift (I can't believe Amazon still has them in stock, but as Paul said, Nintendo would be pretty dim if they continued their fake shortage into the holiday season), so technically the kids' gifts are all taken care of, but Paul and I keep seeing things that would be SO GREAT for one kid or another kid, so that adds stress after all: do we buy more, or do we stick to our plan? What if one of us is more worried about money than the other of us? What if one of us thought the arrangement was that the Wii would also be OUR gifts, and the other of us didn't think that was part of the arrangement at all and is completely dismissive of that idea?

Plus, the stockings! Last year, three-fifths of the kids were still too young to care, so it was no big deal. This year only one-fifth is too young to care, so if I find a good stocking stuffer for $1, that's suddenly $4 for only one teeny thing in the toe of each stocking. This could add up.

And the in-laws. GEEZ, the in-laws. Every year I decide I'm NOT buying my father-in-law ANYTHING, that's IT, forGET it! He never sends us anything or even acknowledges receiving our gifts, so why keep doing it? But then I relent: I think that just because HE'S an ass doesn't mean I need to change MY behavior, and I think it's right to get my children's grandfather a present at the holidays. This year, though, I might seriously be done. I look at our finances, and it seems to me that "present for absentee ingrate" might rank lower than "braces for eldest child" or "heating bill." Or even lower than "games for the Wii."

I think I'm just going to do gift cards for my sister-in-law and mother-in-law. I get the feeling I miss the mark every year with their gifts, and it's getting less important to me for them to think I spent time and thought on them, so I'm thinking gift cards would make us all happier.

Thank you for allowing this panicky interlude. Feel free to do a little panic-commenting if you want: it really does make a person feel better.

47 comments:

Jen said...

Oh, I know. The stress. The STRESS! Last year you gave me some brilliant ideas for my oldest girl, who is approximately the same age as your twins. Won't you, won't you do that again this year, Swistle? If you come across ideas that you think are a great deal, let us know! PLEASE! kthanx.

Nowheymama said...

We are trying a new thing: giving the same gift for parents and brothers and sisters and inlaws. We'll see how it goes. Everyone else (great-aunts, neighbors, etc.) gets a lovingly handmade (thank you, Oriental Trading!) ornament.

As for the kids, if I shop too early, then Scott shops, then we have too much. I've learned to wait till he goes shopping.

My word verification is "socker."

Jess said...

This is the awesome thing about having a wedding. Blurb photo books for everyone! Well, for the parents, anyway. Urgh. Now I'm panicking about all the non-parent gifts that need to be bought. At least we don't have kids yet, right?

Jen said...

Also, I think you are totally right in not getting your FIL a gift. I have a similar family member, and she is lucky to receive a card, which I will send to her, even though she won't even acknowledge us. Bleh. It's too complicated, isn't it?

el-e-e said...

...what do you mean, "pre-panic?" It's full-on Panic here.

You reminded me I have to order new stockings. I've waited all these years to get "nice" stockings for my kids, 'til the second kid arrived. And she did! In February! And I forgot, until now, about the monogrammed stockings I want. Ack!

I'm also struggling with how many things to get AJ. He would LOVE so many things! But do I want him to get used to these enormous Christmases?? Probably not. Gotta put on the brakes. But gotta get to shopping....Yi-yi-yi.

Kristine said...

Last year I had all my shopping done by Decemebr 1st. It was my goal. It made the weeks before Christmas SOOOO much easier to have everything stressy out of the way. Of course I did buy a few extra tidbits here and there, but it wasn't because I NEEDED to, it was because I wanted to. I fear this year I will not hit the Dec 1st deadline.

zoot said...

Don't get me started. I'm already so stressed it hurts. I love Christmas, but it hates me.

Annika said...

There is NO WAY that I will finish all the things I am making for gifts this year. There is NO MONEY for replacement gifts. There isn't even any money to MAIL the gifts. I am thinking of canceling Christmas altogether.

Melissa H said...

I feel your panic--ahhhhhhhh

Ok, maybe I feel better?

Tracey said...

I let myself buy at LEAST one gift card a year. Sometimes more. It destresses at least 1 present. Also, I attach receipts to every present. I don't care if they don't like it, and don't need to know if they return it!

Also? I am big on doing a theme for several presents. One year, almost everyone got BOOKS. Another year, we did a lot of dvds. It really helps to say "What DVD would grandpa like?" Rather than "WHAT would Grandpa like?"

pookahs said...

Our stockings used to be mostly candy, nuts, tangerines and a couple really chep stocking sutffers. Bonny Bell chapsticks maybe. Keep it simple, the stocking is a fun idea but not a whole 'nother thing to stress about.
Maybe it would help you to read about it on Wikipedia:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christmas_stocking

Also, when I was little I got fewer presents than my friends and it didn't really matter until middle school. Then I just wanted the stupid expensive stuff, like Esprit and Guess, not lots of it. I got a lot of books, art projects/supplies and educational games.

Becky said...

My recommendation for grandparent gifts: donate in their name to a charity. That way, even if they don't acknowledge the gift, you know you did something good in their name. If you are feeling bitter you can even donate to a charity they wouldn't agree with. You would probably definitely hear about it then (although not in a thank-you note).

Seriously, though, donating in someone's name is great for the people that don't need anything and don't have space for any more decorative stuff.

See how nicely I TOTALLY IGNORED the question about holiday stress? Because if I don't think about it it will just resolve itself, right?

Kristi said...

Oh the panic! This is the first year I'm spending with my boyfriend's family. They've all already bought gifts for me! I have no clue where to start for any of them, so gift cards it is!

Anonymous said...

I am doing SpaFinder gift cards for my female in-laws this year. Costco sells $100 in SpaFinder cards for only $79. My sister-in-law made a pointed remark about definitely not needing anything else from Williams Sonoma this year (rude, since I drew her name last year and got her a really nice ice cream themed gift from W-S) so I decided to make it easy on myself and go for convenience this Christmas. Why try and be thoughtful and creative when it is totally unappreciated?

Vicky said...

No helpful hints here, just panic.

PS My target finally go the grow it yourself Christmas trees. I'm so excited. Hope mine work.

Mims said...

If it makes you feel any better, gift cards are my absolute favorite things to receive at Christmas. It is sometimes hard to justify spending money on myself, even if there is something I really want. A gift card means I get to (have to, even) take some time to get something for myself guilt free. The only real caveat is to make sure the gift card is for a place the recipient likes - so they know you have put some thought into it.

Gwendolyn said...

Freaking out over here, too. My in-laws will flat out tell you to your face that they don't like what you give them...and if they don't tell you, they will tell everybody else. Last year I gave up and just gave them a framed picture of the kids, and they about had a fit. Why do I keep trying? And yet, here I am worrying about it again. *Sigh*

Gina said...

I'm in a panic, too. I am so far behind this year - as in - I have nothing done. At all. It's a tight year money-wise, and it makes it even harder that both kids just had birthdays. I don't get my bonus (thank jeebus that I get one) until Dec 15th, and I will be taking that day off work and doing a commando get it all done or die shopping marathon.

Miss Grace said...

I'm all panicky and heart-in-throat about gifts this year. My family is HUGE and with so many KIDS and I can't just not get gifts because everyone else gets gifts and I'm not even the poorest member of my family or anything and none of them even have credit card debt so HOW DO THEY DO IT??

Swistle said...

Jen- YES! When I see good deals/ideas, I'll mention it. Also, do you read Want Not? She lists deals, and there are so many of them near the holidays.

Becky- I am BLINDED by the BRILLIANCE of the idea of donating to charity in the names of people such as my father-in-law! Ha ha ha! That is a GREAT idea! Then he won't even have the satisfaction of complaining how neglected he is!

wheelmaker said...

My family started drawing names last year and it was so nice to only have to get a present for one person (though I did also get a present for the one child in the family). I still have to get presents for some of my coworkers. I wish there was a way to suggest that we stop doing presents without sounding like a grinch!

Elizabeth said...

The gift stress gets me every year. I have crunched the budget mightily and I still don't see how it's going to work out - and I am all for making gifts and spending time with family and all of that magical hoo ha, but when you are spending Christmas with family who will literally spend thousands of dollars on you - I mean, I have to give them something. I can't hand someone who has bought me a COMPUTER some hand made caramels. Finding something for people who spend SO MUCH money on us and who don't need anything is just too stressful for words. I wish it were not so, and yet, there it is.

Dynamita said...

Husband and I don't do presents except for each other. It's one of the advantages of being married to a Catholic person: Christmas is very much still about, you know, Jesus. If anybody gives us a present expecting one in return, or complains about not receiving one, we just very nicely remind them what Christmas is about. Nobody has ever said anything back. It's a really good tactic he he.

I don't know if it will change when we have kids though.

Alice said...

i am currently PRE-stressing about getting gifts, because i have not even yet made a list of people i need to get gifts FOR, so it's stressing me out that people are already stressing about gift buying when i am not even prepared to start the PROCESS. GAH.

clueless but hopeful mama said...

I was trying to write a post about this the other day and I just totally MELTED DOWN so I went back to reading
"Twilight" and forgot all about holidays for awhile.

We are trying to just do stockings with our extended family but my sis-in-law made these HUGE stockings for everyone last year. Seriously, you could fit a large puppy or HUNDREDS of diamond bracelets in there. I'm not sure that restriction will help.

ACK! Back to vampire love!

Tara said...

Ah, you just made me want a Wii... and Amazon will ship to my APO - which NO ONE ELSE WILL DO FOR A Wii (and our exchange only gets about 5 in at a time and you have to get a lottery ticket to enter a drawing for the CHANCE to BUY a Wii).

I've found it super difficult to buy for people this year because I get more and more frustrated with the fact that my family is SO materialistic and we have to get them each something "good" or they complain. Yes, they COMPLAIN about a GIFT! So then, I have to get my in-laws something good because even though they'd accept any old crap, or nothing, since they've largely gone through life with little or nothing, I feel really guilty if I spend a lot of money on my family and not that much on my husband's. Oh, and since I live in Japan, they all want something that is very Japanese, but none of them want something that will clash with their modern, showroom, magazine-worthy decor (again, my family).

And to add insult to injury, I have to get my presents in the mail by the day after Thanksgiving or pay almost double to make sure they get there by Christmas. I had to start my Christmas budget/gift spreadsheet in October! Next year maybe no one gets anything. Argh! :) Thanks for your rant (and for letting me have one of my own!).

Ashley said...

I was panicking, but I decided 2 gifts per child from Mom and Dad and that's it. Only one of my kids is old enough for stocking stuffers, so I bought a couple cheapo things (yo-yo and Uno) and then I drew up four $5 coupons, each one to be used in a particular month (Jan, Feb, March, and April). I figure that way we can spread x-mas out and it gives him something to look forward to. If I had more kids I probably would have made them $1 or $2 coupons.

Psuedokim said...

Add my panic to the general panic.

*spazzing out over here*

Hotch Potchery said...

This will be the first year in MANY years that we will not be participating in the free for all we have for our kids in the past. We are paying for an awesome Broadway themed spring break trip for the high school kid, and have had to pick up the rent tab for the kid in college. In addition, we needed a new transmission in our truck, and whine and whine and whine.

Instead of lots of gifts, I want us to play lots of games, watch lots of Christmas movies, make horribly tacky ornaments/crafts, and bake fugly cookies (we are an untalented group).

I want it to be more about the time, and less about the gifts...we only have a guarantee of one more year of all of us in the same town and I want to milk it for all its worth.

Cherish said...

Stocking stuffers kill me every year! Ive got all the kids done but as it turns out, Ive got 40 other people to do and even $10 on each stocking still adds up to 40 in the end. Plus really, can you even fill a stocking for $10? Arg, big families are so difficult at christmas time

d e v a n said...

Stocking stuffers are my FAVE to shop for. I don't really know why.

I'd cut FIL out of the gift list. We are only doing gifts for kids in the family and grandparents/parents this year. Much simpler. Much easier on the pocketbook.

StephLove said...

Nothing wrong with gift cards, imo, if that makes everyone happy. And nothing wrong with trimming your list of people who don't reciprocate.

I don't stress out too much about Christmas. I rarely shop much before December. I have a list of ideas for the kids but I haven't made any purchases yet, beyond renewing a magazine subscription and I do that a bit ahead to make sure it's processed in time.

the new girl said...

The toe of the stocking is where the orange goes.

The orange goes there, Swistle. And takes up that whole toe part.

You're WELCOME.

Kelsey said...

For me the stress isn't so much about what to get because the people in both our families make wish lists. I do worry about the money though. We set a limit for each person but some people in our family are upping the amounts they spend, which leaves me feeling like a jerk. Because someone might spend $50 to our $30... I keep telling myself that how much we spend is not the point, but I would believe it more if we were the ones spending the higher amount.

We are all finished Christmas shopping for the children - which knocks off a huge part of our list. Whew.

RachelAnn said...

I would first start by having a glass of wine and turning on some relaxing music. Then make lists of all the presents you're thinking about or wanting to get people and pick the best options that stick with your budget. If you see things on paper it helps : )

Lindsay said...

I love the commiseration! The charity donation in name of whoever is GREAT, and I may just do that for my parents who don't use anything anyone buys them EVER (not even gift cards, seriously). I am pushing for getting just one present for the in law couples, something for the house that they can share (and return if necessary).

I have no idea what to get for my husband though. He is like a child in that he wants lots of packages to open, but like an adult in that he doesn't want anyone to pick out anything for him. Oy.

I will focus on drinking lots of wine Rachelann. Great advice. Hurray for Christmas season though really, despite all the nonsense that goes with it.

Jody said...

It's 10:38pm est and Amazon is all sold out of the Wii now. The third-party shippers still have some, though.

THANK YOU for mentioning the Wii last week -- we've been planning to get one for months, and when you said that Amazon had them, I ordered ours immediately. It's now sitting in a box in the office. Whew.

I just have to find the Complete Saga Star Wars Lego, and I will rest much easier.

Jessica said...

Our family is enormous and no matter how many times we suggest drawing names or steal a gift, there are people on both sides that refuse. So we have to buy a rediculous amount of presents and I used to get completely freaked out about it. But a few years ago I decided it was just not worth it and implemented a few rules that have much improved my holiday gift-buying mood.

1. We only give our children three gifts from St. Nicholas plus their stocking and that's it. From Mommy and Daddy they get one ornament so they will have a collection when they are grown. We like the religious significance of the three gifts, but we also like that it cuts out all of the STUFF our kids don't really need.
2. I come up with a theme or one or two gifts that I give practically everyone in our extended family. This year it is green christmas and everyone is getting a sigg water bottle and/or a set of pretty reusable envirosax shopping bags. In the past I have done dvds, flashlight/radio/cell phone chargers that you can hand crank if you need to, lands end slippers, monogrammed boat and tote bags, paperwhite/amaryllis kits in pretty pots, and monogrammed stationery.
3. If I have a hit gift with someone that they would like every year, I run with it. My grandmother will be getting a photo calendar of my kids and a paperwhite kit for the rest of her life.
4. Gift cards rule.
5. I try to get everything done by the first week of December. Sometimes I don't make it but it's my goal.

I still get panicky, particularly about gifts for my tween niece and nephew, wrapping everything, and sticking to my budget. But for the most part, holiday gift giving is considerable less stressful than it used to be.

Jill said...

ugh presents. My husband told me that he bought me one big thing that I'm getting early, which makes me whiny because it will be just the two of us Christmas day and I won't get to unwrap anything. I have bought him small items here and there so he will have a few things to open, but that's about it for the two of us. I love how it seems to fall to all of us to do all the shopping for the inlaws every year. I barely know what to get my own dad, let alone my father in law.
I'm insisting that we go pick out a real tree this year since my husband never did that growing up, and I'm hosting my annual cookie decorating party and sending out Christmas cards, so at least I'll have some fun this season. The gift-giving thing is frustrating though because we're going to one salary in anticipation for this baby and aaagh we have no money.

Astarte said...

Oh, the grandfather. Ugh. You know what? The year we did Kathy's 40th birthday surprise party, and had to clean her house beforehand, guess what we found by the front door? The Xmas stockings that the family puts together for each other, mainly done by my MIL and then added to by each of us (well, Jen and I, anyway), STILL UNPACKED. All the small presents that we had gotten for ALL OF THEM were still sitting by the door, in SEPTEMBER. I no longer contribute anything for them larger than a specialty cocoa packet.

I would say, as far as your extended families goes, have the kids make them something and call it a day. Who can complain?! You have a large family. Children come first. Period.

nicole said...

I constantly battle the "am I getting a good deal" stress. It is so easy to get freaked out about whether or not I could be saving a few more dollars elsewhere. So I tell myself that five dollars is no big deal, and if I see something for less money later, oh well. Getting the gifts take care of early has some value too, even if it is not monetary.

As for giving gift cards, go for it. My MIL used to try to buy me stuff for Christmas, but I never really liked it. Finally Husband told her it was absolutely fine to give me a gift card and I'm so glad. I think getting a gift card says you want the person to have something they love, and you want to pay for it, but you want them to pick it so you can be sure they are getting absolute enjoyment.

Katie said...

I feel a physical WEIGHT on my chest about gifts. Already! And it isn't even Thanksgiving. This is ridiculous. Also, I feel like we (as a generation) stress out about this way more than our parents did. Or, maybe it is just my parents. But they never stress about gifts. They just kind of figure stuff out at the last minute and it is all happy and fun family times. They don't spend a lot of money, either. Why didn't I inherit this gene? For me it is list after list and panic after panic.

And, the rare time I get it all done early, I end up hating what I got and wishing I had waited because I see much better ideas later on. Either that, or I stress that the gift I bought looks too piddly, so I go and buy more to go with it. Then, I end up spending way too much. What a dumb-as$ I am!

I am really considering amazon gift certificates for everyone. You can find ANYTHING on there. Seriously.

Julie said...

I'm commenting at the risk of everyone hating me, but I had all my Christmas shopping done, wrapped, and tagged by the end of October. Why? Because I spend less money if I shop early and I have NO STRESS for the holidays, (other than the kind induced by interacting with family members, but that's pretty hard to escape). It also makes Christmas morning more exciting because by then I've forgotten what I bought everyone and its kind of a little surprise for me.

wberkebile said...

I just tried to write out a pithy comment, but got so aggravated, it frightened me. Really. I'm shaking my head just thinking about it.

Anywho, sometimes the best I can do is to keep my head down and plow through the next month and 1/2.

That and make extra appointments with my therapist. Really.

melissaisblogging said...

I'm panicking also in a discrete way lol I don't have any money saved for christmas and I'm stressing about presents. I'm entertaining the idea of asking everyone to NOT give us anything so we don't have to get anything, but in the end they probably will and then we'll have to get some too... why don't you pass me some of your online deals? I need to look at online deals, they would totally save my christmas.... yaaaak

Bring A. Torch said...

So glad to know I'm not the only one stressing. I'm melting down about Thanksgiving. MIL has graciously offered to have hers Saturday instead, which helps immensely, but then I have to figure out how much time to spend with each of my own 'rents, and not drive myself nuts re the fact that I'm likely to make those visits solo. Result: I'm not panicking about Christmas until after next week.

Farrell said...

My friends' kids are pretty easy to shop for, and my friends who have kids no longer get a gift from me - too bad, so sad - that's what you get for pro-creating!:)
But my parents are THE WORST to buy for; the absolute worst! They HAVE everything; they don't NEED anything; they make me feel guilty if I spend money, but if I don't, then I feel guilty after I opened everything they gave me even though every single year my mom states, "I don't have much for you this Christmas."

I find my daughter the easiest to shop for, but then again she's 4. New toys, what could go wrong? (crosses fingers).