Make Gift Giving Stress-free by Planning Now… for Next Year

Resolve to Make Next Christmas Less Stressful: Plan Ahead

You've unwrapped your last present and put away the tree. The holidays are behind us, and it's not too early to think about next year.

Some years it can feel like Christmas sneaks up on us. Coming up with gift ideas – not to mention resources – for that special something to warm each person’s heart can really add up, especially if you add on gift exchange parties, children’s teachers, coworkers, a nonprofit program like the Angel Tree, etc.

Among the many plates we keep spinning at the end of the year, managing Christmas finances is often one of the biggest and most difficult. If you feel the toll of stress as you spend on gifts, travel, entertaining and more this season, here are some tips for getting out ahead of the season for next year.

Hindsight is 20/20! Save all the receipts to take stock of what you spent this year and come up with a way to save a tenth or a twelfth of that amount each month. Maybe divide it by 52 and set up a weekly auto-draft out of your checking account into a special savings account to take the sting out of Christmas spending.

Keep in mind that there will be other celebrations throughout the year (birthdays, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day). Build a line item of “gifts” into your household budget for 2020 and stick to it.

If you feel the stress of coming up with ideas for everyone, keep your eyes open for deals and discounts throughout the year, buying presents here and there and socking them away until December. You can even stock a gift cabinet with unassigned presents you know someone will like. Or seize the moment when you hear someone say, “Oh those are my favorite.” Buy it, make a note and tuck it away.

Ask for Ideas Before the Rush
Instead of waiting until the holidays to ask for wish lists, set up wish lists for each person in your family on a shopping app and ask them to add things to it all year long. Some families use these as a source of ideas for birthday, graduation, Father’s/Mother’s Day and Christmas.

Change the Paradigm
Are you still exchanging gift cards with your cousins? Or do you feel obligated to buy a little something for your neighbor because she bought you a gift last year? Have frank discussions with family and friends now to plan for next year. Are there groups of family or friends who would be in favor of drawing numbers for a gift exchange where each person buys for only one other member of the group? Set a price limit so everyone has the same expectations and experiences.

Some might be receptive to a group outing or activity as part of a “no gift” agreement. You’ll be making memories together that last longer and mean more. Perhaps everyone exchanges baked goods with recipes or volunteers together for a favorite charity in lieu of gifts.

Bonus Tip: Be Careful with Credit
Credit card rewards are nice, but be cautious in using your card too freely. It may seem like a good solution now, but it may lead to more financial stress later on. Only rely on credit cards for holiday shopping if you have a plan to pay it off as soon as the bill comes.

The holidays are a wonderful time of year, so don’t let cultural materialism or a sense of obligation ruin it for you. If you’re having a tough time this year – or just wish you had a little more to give – there’s no better time than today to start dreaming of (and planning for) next year’s stress-less holiday season.


Nora McCorkel is the office leader at Pinnacle’s Broad Street office in Chattanooga, TN. She can be reached at [email protected] or by calling 423-386-2290.

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