Cindy’s Weekly Wisdom – I’m Stocking Up For Christmas, Are You?

Cindy’s Weekly Wisdom


I’ve started stocking up for Christmas. I’m not entirely sure this is a good idea. In the past, when my children were younger, I’d sometimes see something six months before Christmas that I thought would make a good gift. By the time Christmas came ’round, I’d realized that my child was too old / too young / no longer interested in X, so now my gift needed to be re-gifted. (Do you call it re-gifting when it’s never even been gifted once?)

My caution about stocking up is compounded by my once good idea that went bad on me: Having a gift box full of a choice of generic gifts, purchased on sale, for my children to select from when they were invited to parties. The reason this idea went bad wasn’t because I made poor choices. It’s because I had about 10 gifts to choose from, and around 3rd or 4th grade, my children were no longer invited to every party for every child in their classes. Instead, they were only invited to a few select parties a year, meaning two things – 1.) that they’d prefer to pick out a special gift for the special friend and 2.) that they aged out of the gifts I’d stored up because they weren’t using the box so frequently.  (If you have children in preschool and early elementary and a couple of children of mixed ages, I still recommend the gift box; just cut off your buying in 2nd grade or so.)

Buying gifts too far in advance can lead to clutter, incovenience, and an excess of spending, all things we’d like to avoid. So why have I bravely started stocking up this year? Well, for one thing, my children are older and their interests and abilities aren’t changing on a monthly basis. For another, it’s October: Christmas isn’t really that far away. (If you shop at Wal-Mart or Costco, you might think it was next week!) In addition, I’ve decided that the positive aspects of buying in advance outweigh my fear of going wrong.

  • Buying in advance allows for slow and careful purchasing. I can shop for the best price or possibly find my items used (for example, a book).
  • I can purchase when there’s a sale.
  • I will avoid panic shopping at the last minute, which is good for my mental health and prevents rash “grab anything for Aunt Myrtle” gifts: Gifts that are doomed from the beginning to become clutter at Aunt Myrtle’s house.
  • I have time to weigh the value of a gift against the cost or other factors without having to make quick decisions.
  • When we buy all our gifts at once or in a short time, it’s easy to toss one more or two or ten more last minute items or stocking stuffers into our cart without thinking, wasting money and creating clutter.

The most important task you have to make this successful is to keep a list of what you’ve purchased and ideas for things you might want to purchase (or make).  A list will keep you from getting carried away, will make you aware of how many gifts you’ve already purchased  and prevent you from skewing your gifts too heavily in one direction (like the year Clara got about 10 pair of earrings. By the end, she was less than completely thrilled). Remember that gift cards, tickets to events, or promises to special outings make wonderful clutter-free gifts. (Also, Colleen has a list of un-clutter gifts under “Guides” at the top of the page. These list are definitely worth exploring and considering.)

I’ve started stocking up for Christmas, have you?

Today’s Mini Mission

Take action on something that you want to declutter but aren’t sure how best to move it on. Maybe it’s time you investigated the possibilities.

Today’s Declutter Item

This book was just one small thing my daughter had left behind.

Eco Tip for the Day

Don’t use throw away cleaning wipes. They have them for cleaning wood, kitchen spills, television screens, make-up removal etc etc. You can do all these jobs with a little water and a microfibre cloth that can be washed and used over and over again.

“In daily life we must see that it is not happiness that makes us grateful, but gratefulness that makes us happy.” Brother David Steindl-Rast

It matters not how fast I go, I hurry faster when I’m slow

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  1. I haven’t bought anything yet. There are no children in my family, so I try in the last years to get away from great gift giving alltogether and only give very small items, just so that people know I thought of them. Often, I make some little thing myself (a gingerbread man for each person, a small bag, a glass of jam, etc.) or get some nice tea or coffee from a little shop around here or some regional special food.
    This year, I put together a wish list, which I’ll hand out to my relatives who will want to give something to me. I put some thought into it – it’s not just generic “consumables”, but for example asking my Dad for wine, as he knows good little wineries and has fun choosing something for me. Or my Mom for some lentils from a eco-farmer near to her. Or my granny for her wonderful christmas cookies and a glass of home-made apple sauce. I also included some “easy” things almost anyone could get, like my favourite chocolate brand, some kinds of tea I like and have run out of and so on.
    I hope, everyone will find something to give to me and I won’t end up with well-meant things that unfortunately aren’t quite my taste.

    • Sounds like you are further along than I am Sanna, and you put so much thought into your list. Good job!

      • I don’t know, whether there is really a “further along” in the subject of gift-giving. Each family seems to handle this differently and it seems as if the feelings related are utterly different from one person to the other.
        I know that neither for my family nor for myself a birthday or christmas without any presents at all would work. I love both giving and receiving presents. That said, to us, it is about the thought that was put in buying or making that present and about the specialness of the holiday. This is why parcels or cards are a wonderful tradition here – you just don’t get them everyday, so the mere fact that I get a surprise envelope or parcel brings me joy. (or – behold – if flowers get delivered for my birthday!) When I open the present and find something I like inside, I’m really beaming like a little child and those presents are thoroughly enjoyed. (and shared, if they are sharable) However, there is no need for a special “price tag” on these presents, it’s really only about getting a little something.
        For my birthday, I’ve shared that I want nothing but “flowers and cake” for years already (I think, I tell that everyone I invite for my birthday since I have been 16 years old), for christmas, flowers and cake are not such a good option and everyone happily ignored my wishes for “nothing”, so I came up with the wish list for this year. As much as I love that everyone insists on giving me that little something, I’d prefer to not receive any more mugs I don’t need or sweets I don’t like. And I think, most of my relatives will be happy to know that I will thoroughly like their present as well.

        • I think it is great the way you find things for people to get you that are very manageable and not very costly. It is nice to get people something they would be pleased with. Frankly, I would love to just take the family out for dinner to a nice restaurant for lunch on Christmas eve for their gift! No one would have to be in the kitchen cooking and we could all enjoy the time together.

    • Well done Sanna. That sounds like the making of a wonderful thoughtful Christmas to me.

    • that is such a good idea Sanna. since becoming a 365er I have started giving consumable gifts & getting them too.
      You have gone one step further. Big claps for you.

  2. No – we don’t give christmas presents in my house (quite a shock, isn’t it?). We (well, Dutch tradition) prefers to celebrate Sint Nicholas – the ‘precursor’ of Santa Claus on december the 5th.

    We usually draw ‘names’. Everybody makes a little wishlist (where little is taken literaly, just a small note) we throw it into a hat and then we let everybody pick one. The one they pick, the one they are buying presents for. Usually the presents are under 25 EUR and are all on the wishlist.

    That being said, I’m definetly going to put on thee and chocolate on my list!

  3. My husband & I exchange gifts. We give something to my Mom. We give something to my husbands’ son. We give gifts to our 3 pets. We give hostess gifts to folks that invite us over for a holiday hooten-nanny.
    Everyone else is either deceased (other parents) or old enough to not need to be given a gift from us (our siblings). Pretty much everyone gets our love & respect.
    Cold? Harsh? Cruel? Nah, just setting the gift-giving to a level that we find acceptable for our life & lifestyle.

    • Funny you should say “Cold? Harsh? Cruel?” because I am sure that some people actually think this about the minimalist approach to Christmas but I almost feel this way about the other approach. All that expense and pressure I felt, once I became an adult, from the more consumerist kind of Christmas got me to a point where I actually dreaded the arrival of the holiday season. Or should I say the shopping season, as it starts now sometime in September.

      Christmas was traditionally minimalist in nature with the emphasis being on the religious or true meaning of the occasion. I for one am happy for it to return to that tradition.

      • Here here! I concur!

      • I agree its about the real reason for christmas & getting together with family.
        we had two new family members one a new husband & one a new partner. Each of these did’nt have family christmas’s & hated the consumerism of christmas. So their partners my neice & my daughter told them that our christmas’s were family affairs. so they came that year & absolutely love our Family christmas & now would’nt miss it for the world.
        Ours is very simple traditional roast, bonbons lots of laughter & enjoying being together.

    • Jane, that’s about where we are. We give my mom money or a gift certificate because that’s what she prefers. My husband and I either give each other small gifts of food or other consumables, or we do something fun together and skip the gifts altogether. There are no children to buy for anymore, and our dogs get a special Christmas meal because the dog toys were really starting to pile up. We can finally relax and enjoy the holidays.

      • I find it that Christmas should be focused on the religious thoughts and that gift giving should be special. However, sometimes we have relatives that go waaayyy overboard. You say that you want a small Christmas, not so much stuff, and they, literally, “fill” under the tree with so many things, you feel inadequate. And when you aproach the person and says that maybe it is too much, you are made to feel like you are pety, not wanting other people to get so much. I can buy all that much, but does it need to be so? Sometimes I do feel that it is all a little too much

        • I sometimes feel that it looks skimpy under our tree compared to photo shots in magazines, but on Christmas Day, when my parents and my daughter’s Godfather bring their gifts and add them, it’s all fine.

  4. No, I am very fortunate not to pressured by the whole Christmas gift thing. Though I think you have got it just right Cindy for what workd for you and your loved ones.
    My husband and I don’ give each other gifts and there are no small children in the family. We don’t buy anything for his parents at their request and I don’t buy for mine, but prefer to gift them small things in the year as I spot them. Other than that we just get gifts for any family we see on Christmas day, which in the last year or two has been home made chutneys and a few specialist delicacies (stuffed vine leaves etc).

    To my brother, I have a running gift of my time to help declutter his home office a few times a year- this will be a life long necessity 🙂 His wife is very grateful, lol.

    • I had started giving a donation to Heifer International or some other charitable organization in honor of my parents-in-law and brother-in-law, and last year my husband’s parents asked us to just give that amount to our children’s college funds. Ok, I can do that!

      • Although I have to say, I did enjoy making donations to the charities that I’d select at Christmas. Throughout the year, we donate to our church, our daughters’ school, the public TV and radio stations, and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. All these organizations benefit us in some way. At Christmas, I select charities that are not within our “sphere”, like high efficiency cook stoves to refuges or funding girls to go to school in Afghanistan, and I always enjoy that.

  5. Cindy, I enjoyed your post. I usually start my Christmas shopping in October (I try to get done before Thanksgiving). I have not purchased any items yet but I have made my kids start their wish list. In the past, when my children were younger, my husband and I would shop on one October weekday (usually Columbus Day), while the kids were in school. We were able to get most of the shopping done on that day and that helped take some of the stress out of shopping. I find that shopping early allowed for better selection and less crowds in stores. My kids are older now and I am not opposed to making them pick out their own items and I will wrap them later, with a few surprises thrown in. I really try not to go near the malls or other mega stores after Thanksgiving Day. I have tried Black Friday shopping, but it was not really worth it for me and I look for internet deals instead of fighting the crowds. Most websites will offer free shipping and discounts starting on Columbus Day and periodically through the end of the year. My gift recipient list is getting smaller too, since we are pulling a name from the hat this year instead of buying for everyone. I do try to buy things that will be used, or gift cards, so that people will really want what they are getting. I try to tune in when my family members or friends will mention something during the year that they really like or want, then I will make a mental list.

    • Wow – Columbus Day and Wow – your husband shops with you. I’d say you’re in the minority on both counts! I do put ideas in my list as I go through the year. Neither of my children shop much nor do they watch commercial TV, so they don’t have the “gimmes,” which makes my life better but gift shopping sometimes a bit harder.

  6. My Christmas this year is different. My parents are in France. My brother will be joining them some time in Dec. My other brother will still be in Sydney with me. So I’m really not sure what I’m getting – given that for the first three people, small is better!

    Interestingly, we’ve never been a ‘stocking’ stuffer family (we didn’t even have ‘real’ stockings, just used a pillow case). Santa didn’t even wrap gifts (saved us working it out I think!) I totally understand the concept of ‘stocking stuffers’ as my cousins’ got them. But to me (and my (in some respects) minimalist mum), they seem like automatic clutter! I feel like I’m saying something bad there, but hopefully someone on this site, of all sites, might not think that’s ultimate blasphemy!

    With my local friends, I make something (I’ve done treacle cakes, before I flew to europe – that was a logistical nightmare, along with 3tons of treacle!), and interstate/international people always get a card. Actually, with a Oct/Nov holiday this year, I’ll need to get right into all this as soon as I’m back… le sigh!

    • I have a funny stocking stuffer story, Snosie. I never paid much attention to stockings – an orange, some nuts, maybe a chocolate – and then I hand stitched (embroidery and needlepoint) stockings for the whole family, including the girls’ Godfather. They took me a year each, and suddenly, stockings and their contents are a really big deal to me! We stick to food, as before, and small useful items like lip balm, nail files, and little give aways that come our way during the year. Oh, and my Dad always gives every a lottery ticket. So far, we’ve never had a big Christmas payoff though. ; )

  7. A very good article Cindy – my kids are older (and are only interested in cash or gift vouchers) but I know exactly what you mean about having gifts on hand and when that arrangement changes almost over night.

    A month or so back I noticed a mini nail polish set, themed and boxed and I thought perfect for one of my daughters, so I grabbed as I had a voucher for that store to use up and the difference was minimal. A few days later I was in the same store with my daughters and they were at the same counter and one of them picked up the boxed set, I got all happy-happy thinking yes I was onto a winner and then they proceeded to discuss why they didn’t like it. Oh dear. I have long known that they should pick their own fashion items but this just reinforced it.

    • One year my mother bought me a whole bunch of clothing, all of which I returned. That’s the last time she every bought clothes for me!

  8. Good subject Cindy. We don’t give gifts to each other. We do something together. We try not to give many other gifts because most people don’t “Need” anything and financially we are not flush. So we go with gift cards to places we know the recipients like. Sometimes we make a few baked goodies and give those away.

  9. I’m actually almost entirely done with Christmas shopping. I still need to buy/make/get one nice thing each for my parents and grandma. My extended family (at least the female half) is BIG on giving gifts, and equally big on my being in college. In the first weeks of college, many NICE freebies are made available. This year full size nail polishes and eye makeups were given out, so every woman in my family is getting a nice gift box (I’m an excellent wrapper/packer) that looks like a million dollars, and cost me $0.25 for the boxes (bought from a garage sale). The gentlemen are getting reusable bags, a water bottle (customized! It had a “Shane Co.” ad on the side, so I carefully removed the “Co.” and am giving it to my cousin Shane)

    So yeah, I’m mostly shopped out for Christmas already, but that’s just because if I waited, I would be buying WAY too many pieces of junk, and spending way too much money. I’d buy less if I could get away with it, but the family is too set in their ways. I can’t wait to stop “celebrating” with them and start my own traditions. 😛

    • Though to curb the gifts, I did ask my parents (and possibly family) to chip in on one really nice gift for me that I would really like, so hopefully I won’t get too many little things this year. A few stocking stuffers, sure (usually half candy and half tiny things that relate to hobbies or collections we have), but just one really nice present.

      It’s a salad shredder from an excellent brand. You throw veggies or cheese in, crank a wheel, and out comes shredded (or sliced, or crinkle cut) anything. My mom has had one for 5 years, and I’m SO jealous… they’re just too expensive. Crossing my fingers for Christmas though.

  10. I have done no Christmas shopping and it is entirely possible that I won’t. My son is off to America for the Christmas period and will probably like spending money. My daughter should be at rookies (initial defence training) and may or may not be home for Christmas. She owes us money so we will wipe what we would spend on her off her debt. If we go interstate to family it will be a Secret Santa set up so only two gifts will be required. The decision on what we do hinges around our daughter so plans may end up being a bit last minute. So I am going to take it easy this year and just make it up as we go along.

    I must say though that I have never been much for buying too soon for the very reasons Cindy suggested because kids tend to grow and change so rapidly in their early years that what you buy too far in advance could end up being inappropriate. I have always done the same with clothes as well.

    As for kids birthday parties, I have never met a child who objected to receiving money for their birthday. I always loved that my grandmother to send me money, which she did every year without fail and I had so much fun spending it on whatever I liked.

  11. I think I have mentioned this before but friends of mine, they do a ‘Reverse Santa’ – its a twist on Secret Santa. Everyone pulls a name out of the hat BUT you buy YOUR gift on behalf of that person whose name you pulled out of the hat. This family had no little children and everyone was at the point where they didn’t want things they don’t really want. So the Grandmother (who was sick of hankerchiefs and talc sets) pulled her grandson’s name out the hat……and he was very surprised to find he had bought granny a boogie board.

  12. I have some gift cards that I got in the Albertson’s giveaway this past summer. I used to stock up on gifts, but a lot of times I felt like we were just giving something out of duty. I personally don’t like gifts that end up being clutter for me because they aren’t something I want or would use, but would be just as happy to go out to lunch or a nice note on a card. So, I stopped doing the buy ahead thing. With gift cards, they can choose what they want. I spend the same amount, but don’t give clutter or have it hanging around my own house. The thing that solidified this for me was when I helped my daughter return some things to a well known store where they had registered. The sales clerk wouldn’t even give them credit, even though it was on their list, because they didn’t have a receipt. That was the last straw. I didn’t want to do that to anyone. If they get duplicate items, they should be able to take it back for credit, especially if they are registered. So, I have changed. Before you give a gift, ask yourself if it is what you would really want. I think when you give any gift, you are doing it for you. When you give a gift because you really care about the person, you will give something they really want or could use. Just my opinion.

  13. No stocking up here. We’ve really, really, really simplified Christmas.

    My husband and I don’t exchange gifts. Our children are grown, and our grandchildren are getting older, so they all receive money gifts so they can choose to buy something they’d like, or save the money.

    We don’t exchange gifts among siblings on either side of the family now either. We all agreed to put a stop to that a few years ago, and the peace and relief that come with that decision is great.

    My saying about this is: “Green–one size fits all.” (For those who don’t live in the United States, our paper money is basically all green, nicknamed “greenbacks”.)

  14. On my side of the family we have an agreement this year (with my heavy encouragement) to complete a couples ‘secret santa’, each couple will put in £50 and are assigned another couple to buy for using their wish/idea list online. This means you only pay £50 rather than buy every adult a gift they probably don’t need and won’t use totalling £300 easily. Kids are still brought for as normal although they usually ask what i think would be a good idea for my son which helps prevent duplicates or things he won’t use/doesn’t need. They are even happy to give money for his account rather than presents on birthdays and xmas which is fab (he is richer than me!!)
    I have almost all the kids xmas presents as i have brought certain items i know they will like and don’t have yet throughout the year when special offers are on or i see them reduced. I even have them wrapped and tagged ready to save a mass-wrapping session xmas eve. Was hoping to convince my partners family that secret santa would be a good idea but they are not keen as they enjoy buying gifts for individuals. They have however agreed to reduce the amount we spend on gifts and do a communal wish-list for anyone buying to take a look at first. Baby steps………

  15. My son is the only one at home for Christmas now that our parents are no longer with us. Our daughter and her family are far away and we just send their gifts to them. For my siblings and our kids, we send a White House Christmas ornament for their tree. Everyone enjoys them and it has become a ritual since I began buying them when I was too sick to shop the year I was waiting for my liver transplant. Now, with my kids grown, I also give them a gift certificate to their local grocery store and they can use it for the holiday shopping or after. This is a big hit. We do buy gifts for the grandkids but it is based on information from my daughter. This year we are giving money for “lessons” – piano and hockey and swimming along with books and something they can use at their activity. My husband and I have been buying one big gift for our family and usually it is something that we have been saving for (last year a new TV) and planning for and just decided that the holiday was a good time to buy. We also went to the Grand Canyon and to visit my sister in Arizona in February and we considered that the rest of our gift to one another. I’d much prefer a trip than something I have to find a space for or that I don’t want. My husband, bless him, has never been one for knowing sizes or what is in style, so I’d rather purchase something I need and have him wrap it (which he likes to do) than let him buy it. Also, I make his favorite fudge which he can nibble on all through the holidays and when it is gone, no clutter. As Colleen says, this year, easy-peasy (and to add my granddaughter’s comment – lemon-squeasy).