Gift giving can be one of the biggest stresses of the holidays, beginning with deciding what to buy, where to buy it, followed by time spent wrapping and delivering it. Not any more! Once you have a gift list full of ideas, past lists for reference, and gift wrapping supplies on hand, holiday shopping can begin to take shape. A pretty wrapping paper, sparkly bow, and signed card are our goal - and done way before Christmas Eve.

No more back-of-the-envelope planning as you head out to the mall. Keep your list on hand and simplify the abundance of choices by sticking to one or two mall stores or online shops.

Organize Your Gift List

Begin by filling in a Gift Giving form, listing people to whom you plan to give a gift, ideas of what to get them, and a budget amount. (Yes, it's wise to think about money beforehand and shop creatively to stick to it). Use the same form from year to year, and you'll spend less time worrying about whether you remembered everyone. You'll find the more organized your records from last year are, the less trouble you will have thinking of new ideas this year.

Who do we put on the list? Start with the most important and closest family members: spouse, children, parents, siblings. Then add others as you have the time or energy. Use as many lines as you need for each person. 

How many people can you handle buying gifts for each year? Somewhere between six to ten people may be comfortable for some. Others in the midst of raising children may give to immediate and extended family totaling twenty to thirty people. When your list of names is manageable, you will enjoy the season more. Stop whatever is frustrating!

For everyone there comes a time when you need to simplify and not feel guilty about doing it. For example, agree with your family that when your nieces and nephews graduate from high school (or turn sixteen years old), you stop buying gifts for him or her. Or when the extended family gathering becomes too large, you might start drawing names so each person brings a nice gift for only one other person. Or you might move to giving birthday gifts, but minimize the holiday gift giving chaos.

The important thing is to learn your limits, and writing the list on paper gives you the perfect overview. Fine-tune it each year until you are comfortable with it.

Who Should I Put On My Gift List?

The rule of thumb is to include closest family and those with whom you have a history of exchanging gifts. Don't make it complicated by adding more people. Often a Christmas card and greeting is all that's needed. Above all, limit your list to a comfortable number of people.

Here is a list of memory jogger names. Put a check mark beside those you include in your gift list; put an X by those you do not.

 Husband
 Wife
 Daughter
 Son
 Mother
 Father
 Grandmother
 Grandfather
 Grandchildren
 Roommate(s)
 Sister
 Brother
 Mother-in-law  
 Father-in-law
 Sister-in-law
 Boss
 Secretary
 Teacher
 Baby Sitter
 Neighbors

List the names in the same order each year so you can easily refer to what you did last year. That way you don't have to wonder, What did I give them already? Now you know!

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Look for the gift with a surprise element. It should be something the receiver likes, but not something expected. That's the magic of Christmas.

Celebrate the Reason for the Season

One tradition we've started is to put the reason for the season, the baby of Bethlehem, at the top of our Christmas gift list. We write "Jesus" on our list first and then ask God to show us what we can give back to him. You might want to do this too. You might help a down-and-out family in need of groceries, financially worthy charities locally or worldwide, or help with a community or church Christmas pageant. I find that when I put God first and give something of worth back to Him, He multiplies that gift and organizes my time so I can get everything important done. Write Jesus at the top of your Master Gift List. You'll be amazed at what happens each year.