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It’s August! Time to talk about Christmas and Hanukkah presents!
Yes, I know Santa Claus and Hanukkah Harry are still tanning in the Hawaiian Islands and sharing last year’s stories over shaved Hawaiian ice. So why talk about gifting now?
Three words: Themed group gifts.
Before I get into the “how,” let me explain why giving themed group gifts is amazing:
- I can work on the gifts whenever I want. Like in August.
- My gift recipients love the cherished memories they have of each year’s gift.
- I get to be really creative! I love thinking about what people like and finding ways to make it happen.
- There’s no clutter, no fighting over parking at the mall, and no stress.
- I don’t have to worry about someone changing their mind after I’ve already purchased their gift.
- It’s easier to stick to a budget when I am planning at my own pace at home, in the car, or wherever. It is much harder to stick to a budget when I am in places designed to make people spend more money than they want to (i.e., stores).
- There will be less gift comparison because my gift is unique and everyone got the same thing. Drama, be gone!
- I can think of ways to leverage off-season venues to get more bang for my buck. For example, is there a martial arts instructor whose studio will be empty in December? Maybe they can give a demo and one hour class to family and friends (sparring encouraged) for a flat rate.
- Since I am spending less time shopping, I have more time to spend with the people I love.
Now that you’re sold on the idea, here’s how I make our holidays simply shine:
- I buy gifts around a theme that will give the maximum amount of entertainment to the maximum number of people receiving the gift (the 99%). Some people might not like the gift as much as others (the 1%). That is okay. They’ll get their turn a different year.
- Everyone on my gift list receives the same (or similar) gift based on the theme I choose regardless of how much or little they spent on buying gifts for me.
- I build the element of surprise into all of my gifts. The type, contents, and theme of the gift are always a surprise and change every year.
- I create anticipation. Each year, I send out a calendar invite or paper invitation for the time of The Great Gift Reveal when everyone gets their gift at the same time. And, as we know, anticipation makes receiving a gift even more enjoyable.
- I plan the details of the gift ahead of time. Doing so allows me to think through alternate gifts, ensure I stick to my budget, and plan for people being in or out of town. It also allows me to be more creative and to think about things like weather, parking, etc.
Here are some examples of themed gifts I have given family and friends in the past that were a huge hit:
- Custom, tangible gifts around a theme: One year, I gave each recipient a custom photo mug from Costco with a few pictures of them and my family printed on it along with a few words of thanks for sharing memories with us. I stuffed each mug with packets of hot chocolate, tea, and/or coffee that I thought the recipient would like. After opening the gifts, we all shared some hot beverages together in the new mugs. My recipients enjoyed this gift so much that they have requested a repeat of this with updated photos.
- Experiential outings around a theme: Another year, I reserved an afternoon tea time for everyone. I communicated the date and time of our event and told them to put on their fancy clothes, but I didn’t tell them where we were going. We met a few blocks away from the tea shop and walked over together. Everyone had a blast eating scones, sipping tea, and donning feather boas, big hats, and faux pearl necklaces. We took some great pictures and shared the photos with everyone who attended.
- Themed parties at “home”: A couple years ago, I planned a surprise wine-tasting at my host’s house (we were staying with them for the holidays). I brought wine glasses, a variety of wines, wine tasting cards, disposable dinnerware, and appetizers (fruits, nuts, cheese, etc.) and set up an afternoon wine tasting. In addition to feeding my host and their guests, I also took some of the pressure off of the host because they didn’t have to cook, clean, shop, or play entertainer for one meal.
The point here is to get creative and have fun with the gift. Here are some other possibilities:
- A fun group activity out – chartered boat, go kart racing, jazzercise, mani-pedis, behind-the-scenes tour, scenic picnic, sleigh riding.
- A themed party – ugly sweaters, 5 o’clock somewhere, 80s, face painting, zoo animals, casino night.
- A tasting – chocolate, ice creams, coffees, beers, margaritas, ethnic foods.
- Customized gifts – personalized pajamas, mugs, framed photos.
- Unusual settings – Art museum tour at midnight. Acrobatics or gymnastics for adults.
As you can see, you can get really creative with this and keep it to whatever price point you want, especially if you get a gift that has a flat fee (for example, having an entertainer come to your house with animals). Planning a group outing will also allow you to get a group discount at many places, which can save you money as well.
In short, this has been a great, stress-free way for us to really enjoy the holidays. Please, try it out, and let me know how it goes.