Simplify shopping and add more intentionality to your gift giving.

I specifically remember the moment I decided I’d “had it” with Christmas last year. After spending too many hours and dollars selecting and purchasing the perfect gifts for what felt like everyone I knew, a friend mentioned she wanted to get together next week because she had a “little something” to give me. Cue the panic: That Saturday, which I had been planning on spending in jammies with my family watching Christmas movies and watching the snowfall, was spent driving around the mall parking lot.

It took 45 minutes to find a spot in the crowded lot, and after trudging my way across the snow and slush, I was confronted with crowds like I’d never seen. Workers were crabby, everyone was impatient, and every line was miles long. As soon as I returned home after buying some generic something-or-other at Williams-Sonoma, I snapped to my husband, “That’s it! No presents next year!”

Needless to say, I didn’t keep that promise.

But I did decide something: that this year, gift giving was going to be different. Holiday gifts were going to be given from a sense of love and gratitude for the person, not out of an obligation. They would be thoughtfully curated throughout the year instead of purchased haphazardly at 10% off. They would be more meaningful, not more expensive, and they would be a source of joy instead of stress.

Here are three questions I now ask myself before buying gifts, not just at the holidays, but year-round.

01. Do I even need to 'buy' this person something?

How many people in your circle to you purchase for simply because you feel like you “should”? Is there something they might prefer instead of a box with a bow? Maybe your babysitter would prefer a glowing college recommendation letter. Your grandmother would probably prefer you come eat dinner with her one evening instead of yet another “Best Grandma Ever” knick-knack. Every year, my husband and I go on a “Christmas-themed date” together instead of buying each other gifts. It’s my favorite part of the holiday season and the opposite of stressful. Avoid buying out of a sense of “have to”.

02. If I do need to buy something, what would be the most meaningful for them?

Think about it—would you rather receive a generic fancy hot chocolate mix or a handwritten card letting you know how much you mean to someone? Expensive gifts don’t translate to very impactful gifts. Instead of trying to have the “best” gift, think of what would make the biggest difference to the person.

For example, we often tsk-tsk gift cards, but a bit of extra cash can be such a joy to receive this time of year. A gift card to Target could be a godsend for a new mom. I tend to get lots of Barnes and Noble gift cards and I’d often much prefer them to people trying to choose books for me! Gifts should be about the other person, not just what you think is fun to buy. 

03. Could I use this gift to make the world a better place?

Have double the impact by buying gifts from ethical companies. Better yet, if you’re really unsure of what to get someone, make a donation in their name. This can be the perfect gift for those people who seem to “have everything”—why not give to someone who has very little? Growing up, my godparents always bought a family in need a cow or sheep in my name from Heifer International. The impact those animals made on families was much more special to me than any sweater would have been.

A final note, try to live your values through your gift-giving. There’s nothing wrong with gift giving. I love to give gifts, and I love to receive gifts, particularly during the holidays. But gifts shouldn’t be another rushed item on your to-do list. So before picking up another coffee mug, stop and ask yourself these three questions to make intentional gifting part of your holiday traditions.