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Personalize the gift-giving experience

Updated on August 14, 2016
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Joyless gift-giving

When Fall chill hits the air, some people's thoughts turn toward the coming holiday season. There are several special holidays between September 1st and March 1st. Sadly, these holidays seem to be a source of stress rather than celebration.

Come September, I start hearing people grumbling about the coming gift shopping season. Complaints about traffic, parking at shopping centers and high prices. Then the complaints of the hassle in general, of finding an appropriate gift for everyone on the list. I get irritated when I hear these complaints. If it is such a huge imposition, then why bother? Of course, I mind my manners and keep that thought to myself.

I know traffic can be stressful in general, let alone during the holiday shopping season. I do sympathize with people about the inability to find a parking space in a crowded parking lot. I also understand how hard some people can be to shop for gifts. I often feel sorry for myself for having to fight with these same cranky people inside the stores. They push, shove and will flat walk right over the top of you if you aren't careful!

Then we have the gift-giving itself. I have witnessed some of the most robotic gift-giving ever, on Christmas morning. No one really seemed to care about the happiness the gift brought the recipient. All that was talked about while opening gifts was the traffic, parking and stress. Talk about taking the joy out of something.

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No "cookie cutter" gifts this year

I have a special name for gifts picked off of a shelf at a box store: cookie cutter. What I mean by this is that the item has five more, just like it, stacked behind it. There is nothing special or unique about buying someone a gift, off of a shelf.

I know this and coined my personal phrase, after shopping from the shelves for many years. Sure, I wrapped it in pretty paper or presented it in a nice gift bag stuffed with tissue paper. Sure, I added a nice card and hand signed it. This is all fine and dandy until I faced the facts: boring, obligated feeling and stress. Not to mention the fact that pretty paper or not, a blender is still a blender.

Now don't get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with choosing a nice gift from the shelf. In fact, you can make your recipients very happy that way. After all, the reason for the season is not supposed to be gifts, it should be about quality time with family and friends (or whatever the occasion like anniversary). Having said all of that, I made a decision to stop with the cookie cutter gifts. Well, stop in the traditional sense of buy, wrap and give.

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Extra special gifts

The first step toward coming up with a personalized gift is making a list of what you know the person likes. For example my mom likes reading old west themed books, doing jigsaw puzzles and collecting angel figurines. I pick one (or as many as I want) and go from there. I am going with the angel figurines.

Next, search locally or online for the item you want to get him/her. I chose a set of four, plain white ceramic angel figurines. Now that you have the item, figure out a way to make it special. For example, I am thinking about painting the figurines in my mom's favorite colors. I could also choose colors that represent the different heritages in our family. I could paint the angels in the Irish, German and Scottish traditions and then one American style.

Another way to personalize a gift is by having the recipient's name engraved, painted or sewn onto the item. You could also add an accessory to the gift. For example if you buy a coffee/tea mug, then add some of his/her favorite coffees or teas. The idea is to get creative and show the recipients that you are thinking of them. Personalizing gifts also is a nice way of showing people you pay attention to them.

The next step is presentation. This is usually in the form of wrapping or gift bagging the item. You can have fun with this too! For example, wrap a gift in newspaper comic strips. This makes the gift colorful and whimsical, not to mention cheaper than buying fancy gift wrap. You could also choose pages from the recipient's favorite magazine(s) to wrap the gift. Another idea is to buy solid color or white gift bags and decorate them with themed stickers and/or decals. Colored tissue paper also makes great gift wrap, although care must be taken since it tears very easily.

You can add the final bit of flare with an occasion appropriate card. There are many websites that allow you to design and print out your own cards. Some of these sites offer the service for free. You can also draw and color the card by hand or buy a card that suits the person and occasion.

What's your favorite thing about gifting?

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Tips for making gifting more fun and less stress

Do you dread the holiday season? Does the thought of pushing your way through the crowded stores make you want to scream? Take heart, I understand and can offer you a few tips to make the process a little easier. Maybe, just maybe, you'll even have a little more fun too.

Shop early

I learned this incredibly smart way of gift shopping several years ago. Shop ahead of the occasion. I start Christmas shopping, or at least gift looking, the day after Christmas! I shop for birthdays months in advance. This way, I am not pressured for time or money. I can pick up gifts and personalize them as the year progresses and time allows. It has practically eliminated gift and holiday stress altogether for me.

I do admit to hitting some of the stores before Christmas because certain items only come out at that time of year. Those are special items like collectibles and food items (chocolates for example). Although some collectibles can be found any time of the year with a quick search of websites like eBay or Amazon.

Shop online

I have discovered and love the joys of shopping online! No pushy people, no parking issues and no hassle. Many online retailers offer discounted or free shipping and the items arrive on my doorstep in plenty of time for personal touches and wrapping. Another awesome thing about shopping online is you can shop and order any time of the day or night.

Shopping online is particularly nice for me since I live in a small town. My choices of stores and merchandise is very limited here. The other advantage for shopping online is that I will not risk running into someone I'm shopping for!

Gifting parties

If you have a large family and/or group of friends, gifting parties are a must. You can get together and have lunch and then go shopping. Of course, you have to take turns staying home to avoid knowing what they are getting.

Gifting parties can be held for the ultimate in personal gifts: homemade. You and your loved ones can have fun bouncing ideas off of each other and helping one another create one of a kind gifts. Be sure to have snacks and beverages at the ready!

The last type of gifting party is the wrapping and bagging party. This is also handy for bouncing ideas for creative and festive gift presentation. You can also create cards and gift tags as well.

Have fun

Gift-giving does not have to be a dreaded obligation. With a little planning and help from some loved ones, it can become an anticipated event for every special occasion. The key to that is by making gifting more personal. Put thought into each gift you are going to give. Incorporate the recipient and a bit of your own flare into the gift and presentation. Not only does the effort make the gift better, it makes the process more fun.

© 2014 Tammy Cramblett

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