Buying Christmas gifts can either be a pleasure or a pain and the deciding factor is often centred upon whether you know what to buy for your recipient, or whether you are simply wandering aimlessly in search of inspiration.
So to avoid the pain, a little prior gift planning can pay dividends and can really help to reduce some of the seasonal sress you have to cope with.
It always helps to start your Christmas shopping preparations by writing a list of those you need to buy gifts for. It focuses the mind and can also assist with budgeting, as once you know how many recipients you have, you can allocate your funds accordingly. At this point, you will have a better idea of the type of presents you should be seeking too, as you will have a price range for each gift on your list. It's not mercenary to think like this, it is a sensible and practical measure, as the joy of Christmas can make even the most budget conscious person lose control of their finances during the festive season.
Once you know how much you can afford to spend on presents, don't set off to buy them until you have a few ideas for each gift recipient. Even if you plan to do your shopping offline, make use of the Internet to browse through Christmas gift sites to get an idea of what is available and what the prices are. If you are comfortable with shopping on-line, it can save you a lot of time whilst opening up a whole world of gifts that you may not have previously considered. To reduce postage costs, check out presents for your entire recipient list before you place orders as you may find that several presents can be ordered from the same company.
To decide what gifts to buy, have a good think about each recipient and what you know about their personality. The key to buying gifts that people love is to buy something that they will appreciate, rather than something you like yourself!
Start with those you know well, as you will come up with ideas more easily and this may spark ideas for those recipients you find it harder to buy gifts for. Unless you know someone very well, avoid gifts for the home, as personal tastes can vary wildly in this area. A luxury treat or 'occasion' present can be an excellent choice though, as they don't require the recipient to keep them on display for months afterwards to avoid hurting your feelings. For instance, if you know someone likes to cook, a gift basket of exotic spices and cooking oils will probably be well received and your recipient needn't be a chocoholic to appreciate beautiful handmade Belgian chocolates or a chocolate club tasting box, so these make excellent choices.
Despite our electronic awareness, traditional favourites such as board games can still bring great pleasure when received as a gift and chosen with care, are very suitable presents for friends and relatives. They are also ideal to give as a shared gift for a couple or a family.
One of the latest trends in gift buying is the 'experience' or 'adventure' gift. These can be superb choices if you really are stuck for a gift item as they come in a vast range of prices. For instance, a ten pin bowling session for two is very modestly priced, making it suitable if you have a limited budget, whilst an exciting driving adventure or a luxury spa day will be more appropriate if you have more funds. The beauty of such gifts is that they last long after Christmas, so recipients have something to look forward to long after the wrapping has been discarded.
If you know what someone really wants for Christmas but you simply can't afford it, don't be tempted to buy an inferior quality or similar product. The chances are that despite your good intentions, it won't be used and your money will have been wasted. It is far better in such circumstances to buy something completely different, which is within your budget providing you have applied the principles above to try and select a gift that they will love to receive.
As a final bit of planning, if there is a chance that you might be invited to visit friends over Christmas that you haven't seen for a while, consider buying one or two small token gift items such as books, wine or tree decorations. Have them ready wrapped with a blank gift tag ready and you will always have a little gift ready for someone if you need it unexpectedly.
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