Holiday gift hacks

I am done with the Christmas shopping! Almost everything is wrapped. I feel pretty happy with what has been purchased — like I hit a happy medium where I didn’t go too overboard, but my family members will be happy with what’s under the tree and (I presume) what Santa will bring them as well.

Here are the strategies I found helpful, that maybe other people will too.

Stay organized by making gift lists. And start early! If you have a bullet journal or planner this can be a collection, started whenever you want (like…January?). I have been keeping track of what is ordered or needs to be ordered, and what arrived. As an extension of this, I have been opening boxes immediately because we still have everyday household items arriving from Amazon and it’s frustrating to realize that the supplies for a kid’s school project are now at the bottom of the gift closet. Speaking of which…

Pick a gift closet (or room). We store all presents in a closet in the guest room, with children forbidden to enter. We kind of ran out of space, though, so there’s also a pile in the bedroom with a giant blanket over it. It works. This is also where we keep wrapping paper, scissors, and tape, and where the bulk of the wrapping has happened.

Have the kids buy for each other. We had never done this before but finally decided to do so — and I am a big fan! We managed to pull this off with two Target trips and a little supplemental online shopping. We gave the kids a budget and then had them think through what their siblings would want. The upside is that there will be more stuff under the tree that I didn’t come up with. Another upside: the kids all learned how difficult it can be to make wrapped presents look nice, and I got a few bonus points for past present aesthetics. Another item in the category of “things mom did that we didn’t think about”…that is now thought about.

Get help with the wrapping. G (nanny) and I took a morning and did the bulk of it. It went much quicker this way!

Give each category of gift its own wrapping paper. Each child has their own paper — courtesy Costco’s double-sided big rolls — which allows me to see if the piles are relatively equal. This is no longer a perfect solution (big kid gifts tend to be small and expensive; little kid gifts are big and cheap!) but helps make sure things don’t get too out of whack. I also wrapped the presents for my extended family in a different color wrapping paper, so these can be found for that party, and the adult presents for Christmas morning will be in their own color wrapping paper too.

Re-use gift tags. We bought two giant boxes of gift tags from Costco a few years ago, and have been re-using them ever since. Someone just collects them on Christmas morning and stuffs them right back in the box!

Gift buying responsibilities can be split in different ways. I took the lead on Christmas, assigning my husband certain gifts that I was going to have trouble figuring out (all electronics seem the same to me, so he needs to sort out what’s the “right” thing to get). But my husband takes the lead on our kids’ birthdays, and is fully responsible for buying all presents for these celebrations. It comes out fairly evenly over time. (We are each responsible for our own extended families.)

Have a go-to gift. For the past few years I’ve gotten the adults in my extended family something similar within a theme, purchased from the same retailer. Nice slippers, blankets, Christmas tree ornaments, scarves, etc. might all be options that work for most people.

What strategies do you have for gift buying and wrapping?

14 thoughts on “Holiday gift hacks

      1. Our boys are fairly close in age and have similar interests, so I always have a few gifts that can be for either or both. That allows us to do any necessary last-minute rebalancing, if we realize one accidentally has more than another.

  1. This is maybe a stupid question, but how do you re-use your gift tags? Do you write the names in pencil?
    Loved this post too and especially the idea of different wrapping paper.

    1. @Sarah K – nope, our family usually consists of the same people year to year. So a tag that reads “To [Kid] from Mommy and Daddy” can be given to the same kid the next year!

  2. When I was a kid I loved wrapping presents, so my mom used to pay me to wrap all of hers that weren’t for me or my brother by buying me a copy of my school yearbook every year in return. But I hated how she color-coded the kids’ presents by wrapping all of each kid’s presents in the same paper, because I missed the aesthetic pleasure of looking at many different pretty papers as I opened my identically wrapped presents (I’ve never been a ripper), especially if I disliked the pattern she happened to pick for me. As an adult who now hates wrapping presents, I understand the appeal of any strategy that makes it faster and/or easier, so would like to suggest the alternative approach of putting all the gifts for each person in separate, labeled shopping bags both before and after they’re wrapped, to simplify keeping track of them both in terms of numbers and not losing any, especially if you have family members who enjoy the whole process of opening prettily wrapped presents, not just what’s inside.

  3. We took quarters from the kids piggy bank and had each boy shop for his brothers in the Dollar store. It worked beautifully! Each was so happy to find a little toy they’d like. They didn’t mind that the money came out, to my surprise.

    I also start Christmas gift list as soon as the new year begins. I write everyone’s name in my electronic notes and then whenever an idea pops in my mind I record it there. I try to reconcile lists in the October timeframe.

  4. It’s awesome how involved your kids into getting each other a gift. I did like how you said that kids will learn the difficulty of wrapping gifts. I will use your idea and take the boys to a gift shop so they can get entangled in the gift grasping and participate in the gift exchange too.

  5. Love the kids shopping for each other. Our church does an annual Christmas Shoppe of donated goods the kids secretly shop through during a spaghetti dinner. So cash gets donated to the high school summer trip at church and little kids get help picking secret family gifts. It is so heart warming to see the thought that even a four year old can put into choosing gifts for parents and siblings. My new favorite part of Christmas gift opening!

  6. My tip is to wrap as you go. It is easier for me to wrap here and there than have a monster, hours long wrapping session. I can also keep an eye on wrapping paper supplies – woe to the one who runs out of paper on xmas eve! Wrapped presents go right under the tree, which adds to the holiday decor and makes snooping harder!

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