I'm no Scrooge. I love the gift-giving spirit. Yeah, as a teen in the '90s, I railed against the false pretenses and corniness. But now I think the concept of a "Hallmark holiday" is positively quaint. The prospect of buying a gift from an actual bricks-and-mortar store — as in, not from Amazon.com or www.gilt.com, where I do the vast majority of my shopping — and then attaching an actual handwritten card to it, warms my heart.
That said, overthinking the perfect object to anoint each and every festivity is not an indulgence I am allowing myself this time of year.
Canadian adults are expected to spend about $950 on gifts and holiday décor combined. Jaw-dropping as that dollar amount may be, there is another factor to consider: The (wo)man-hours involved in all this decision-making.
Because for some of us, trying to figure out whether or not to gift that spiffy Disney-themed LED light is a process that can take upwards of 20 minutes — and I haven't even including the wrapping part, since in my current world, I've eliminated this problem altogether by insisting on only using re-usable totes. My no-wrapping policy eases my conscience about waste, though I acknowledge there's more to be done.
I'm currently juggling Hanukkah, birthdays, kids parties, Christmas get-togethers, holiday mixers, baby showers, new houses and a whole bulk of charity gift-giving occasions. My brain is as spent as my wallet.
As such, I've come up with helpful strategies to curb my holiday shopping hemming and hawing.
I've decided to adopt a realistic attitude about returns.
First, I've implemented the "five-minute rule" when choosing a gift. I set the timer on my phone. Usually, I ignore it when it goes off, but it's a start.
Second, when possible, I'll repeat presents I give. If it's appropriate, I'll buy Champagne, or reasonably priced "pink bubbly," usually Mumm Napa or Louis Bouillot. I have a variety of fun, original items from the MoMA store stored in my gift closet at home, along with boxes of Zingo and a bonanza of Fingerling monkeys.
Third, when buying a custom gift for someone, I now encourage him or her to exchange it. Self-imposed time constraints may result in me giving less-optimal gifts, and so I've decided to adopt a realistic attitude about returns.
In the spirit of my new "less time, less waste" holiday policy, I have jotted up an open letter to all my gifts recipients, expressing the sentiment above and how they might play out. I encourage others to use these letters as templates for their special someone, too, though I'll warn you — they are a wee tongue in cheek (insert: winky face).
To my close friend, Miss Fantastic:
They say it's the thought that counts, but I'm spare on thinking nowadays. Please return or exchange this gift I bought you, no offence taken. Actually, I'd be thrilled that you chimed in on the matter. I bought you those silky pajamas in black with the white trim since they were more practical. Personally, I preferred the pristine, less functional white ones with the black trim. If you happen to agree — and we often do — please use the gift receipt provided.
To my son, Pookie-Angelface:
I know you're obsessed with fire trucks, dump trucks, and all kinds of oversized vehicles. But standing at the store, I couldn't bring myself to buy another one. So I grabbed the cream-coloured vintage car since I thought it was cute and slightly different from your other toys. More to the point, decisions needed to be made — I had to get home to relieve your sitter. If you hate the car, I'll exchange it for you. This was a gamble I had to make at the time.
Please accept my digestible, perishable or pulled-from-the-shelf gift in the handsome tote provided.
To my friend's four-year-old daughter:
I wanted to buy you Barbie for your birthday, but I understood that she's controversial. Also, is Barbie appropriate for a girl your age? Hard to know. Therefore, I plucked an eco-chic design-your-own tutu kit from my storage gift closet at home instead. I'm petrified of global warming, so giving you this earthy-inspired gift made me feel (slightly) better about myself, even if I might be the victim of green-washing. Most importantly, it settled that whole Barbie issue. If you're more into dolls than crafty tutus, it's cool with me if you re-gift it to one of your young pals, or even put it in a donation box.
To my darling husband:
You are the one exception that shall prove my "please return or exchange or re-gift this gift" rule. Because whatever you do, DO NOT RETURN, NOR LOOK UP THE PRICE of those John Varvatos sneakers I bought you on Black Friday weekend. I swear I got them on sale, just slightly more than the price I might have shared with you. Also, you cannot return or exchange them anyhow, so why bother getting into a tizzy over it? They look fantastic. Keep them. I beg.
Finally, to others who might not adore what I give you at this present-happy time of year: Please understand that I'm back-logged on wedding gifts from last summer, and while I'm confessing, I have two outstanding presents that I still haven't delivered from the summer before that.
So this holiday season, when I arrive at your function, please accept my digestible, perishable or pulled-from-the-shelf gift in the handsome tote provided. And if you feel the need to re-use, recycle or return its contents, be my guest. I'd be especially pleased if you re-gifted that Champagne back to me.
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