Countdown to Xcelmas

The long Thanksgiving weekend is over. Rich has gone back to work after being off for five days. My mom and #4 have gone back home. And the last of the leftovers from my family's two Thanksgiving meals (yes, my relatives actually make enough for two full dinners on both Thursday and Friday) will be finished off today. There are 29 days until Christmas. And I am so not ready for the shopping madness that's about to ensue.

If you're a frequent reader here, you know I come from a large and close family. Whom I love dearly. Except when they drive me nutty. And batty. But especially around the holidays, it's a wonderful thing to be surrounded by so many people who love you, who worship the very ground your daughter drools on, and whose cooking and baking form the basis of so many of your childhood Christmas memories that at times they're inextricable from the people themselves.

The craziness, however, comes in the form of the sheer volume of gifts and the organization of the purchases for all these people. My sister and I split the cost of our family members' gifts. And the number of people we buy for each year? 11. And this number doesn't include the gifts we buy for each other (obviously), or the gifts we buy for other people (friends, co-workers, significant others) in our separate lives.

Karrie lives 3,000 miles and three times zones away, so co-ordinating purchases for the 11 was often an electronic communication nightware. We'd send emails. We IM-ed each other. We'd try and contact eachother by phone to keep the other updated on potential gift ideas for this aunt or this grandma, but signals were crossed. Emails were deleted. And at times we'd end up with too many gifts for on person, and nothing for another. That's when Karrie came up with the spreadsheet idea.

Yes, my friends, my sister and I now keep a meticulously updated Excel spreadsheet to track our family Christmas purchases. It includes two tables that track all the names of the people each of us is buying for, what we purchased for them, the total cost of the gifts, and a separate table for ideas for the remaining relatives to buy for. Each time one of us makes a purchase, we enter the details, and email the spreadsheet to the other. Yes, Christmas has been reduced to a spreadsheet.

There's nothing I'd like more than to simplify and streamline my holiday gift-giving. I'd love to be able to handmake (or bake) gifts for some people with whom I normally exchange store-bought gifts, to both save money, and because I think these gifts are way more personal and special anyway. I want to take the stress out of the Christmas season, the stress that comes from hunting down gifts for so many people, and replace that stress with time spent with those individuals instead. But in reality, I have no idea how to do this.

Do you have any suggestions? Something that's worked for you that's allowed you to enjoy the holidays without the stress (or with minimal stress)? If so, I need to know!

14 Responses to “Countdown to Xcelmas”

  1. # Blogger M

    Wow. We buy for about 20 people (including friends)and this year I am doing the majority of my shopping online. It saves time and my sanity.
    And Bath and Body Works is having a coupon deal. If you enter code 5260 at checkout you will receive one of your items (up to $12.50) for free. So, I got my mom $30 worth of stuff for $20!  

  2. # Blogger Geekwif

    I don't buy for that many people – hubby and I both come from small families – but I'm going to try the online shopping thing this year too.

    Last year everyone on our list got books. That was nice. One big trip to the bookstore and our shopping was done. The only problem is that, while I enjoy books immensely, it seems kind of lazy to do the same thing again year after year. So instead I'll do my shopping online in my pajamas. Then they'll never know how lazy I was. :)  

  3. # Blogger Thalia

    I can strongly recommend buying presents that do some good in the world. Last year for my inlaws we bought from here
    http://www.sendacow.org.uk/
    and I have to say they were more thrilled than any other present I've ever given them. I'm sure there must be a US equivalent.

    Good luck!  

  4. # Blogger Marie

    That's a lot of people to buy for... do you guys ever talk about drawing names? I know people who do that.

    We've cut way back on exchanging with the adults & really just focus on the kids now.

    A hit with the grandparents is any product made from digital photos. I've done a mouse pad, tote bag, magnets... The best part is that I just sit here in my slippers & click click to order. I'm big on LLBean too, since I get free shipping with their credit card.  

  5. # Blogger M

    Oh yeah! We did calendars using Shutterfly for all the grandparents (my mom & husband, dad and wife, and mike's parents). We'll be getting them something else as well...but they were on sale at shutterfly for like $15 when I got them.
    Mike's family draws names too...so instead of buying for 5 people on that side we each only buy for one.  

  6. # Blogger Shannon

    Oh, Marie, I'm so jealous. I've tried in vain to propose that the adults don't exchange gifts in my family to no avail ("But it's Christams!"). Like Kristi et al., between my family, extended stepfamily, and now in-laws, we have about 18 adults to buy for and now 4 kids. And then friends! Since we can't get out of exchanging gifts, we've started buying animals through Heifer International as charity donations in everyone's names (this would be Thalia's U.S. equivalent to her Send A Cow).  

  7. # Blogger CAL

    Online ordering. No family.  

  8. # Blogger Christine

    We've stopped buying for the adults in the family for the most part. Although my female cousins and I will still exchange gifts and then the immediate family members. It still leaves us with quite a few people.

    As far as homemade gifts go...I would guess that you could do that for most of the friends and coworkers, but from what I know of your family a baked good won't cut it. If you're a fast knitter, you could do scarves for people (there about the extent of my knitting knowledge) but really nice yarn is pretty costly. I'm just no help at all, apparently. I just wish they were all like Thanksgiving where there could be no gifts and we just focused on each other and the food. That is why it is my favorite.  

  9. # Blogger sunShine

    Okay money has been tight, so everyone like grandparents and aunts and uncles are getting pics of the kids. We are also doing stepping stones with the kids handprints on them for the grandparents.  

  10. # Blogger sher

    I was so impressed, but it also gave me the giggles, when you talked about using the spreadsheet. As I look back, way, way back, I remember a time when every relative on my husband's side of the family exchanged gifts. And we were poor, so it was hard. Finally, we had to tell all the extended members that we couldn't do it anymore. As a result, the whole thing kind of crashed and burned! All because of us! We bought gifts for our immediate family--parents and siblings. And everyon else took our lead!

    I make food gifts for the extended members. And doing that is very nice. People love my jam, (Well, they say they they do--so that's fine by me.) It takes time to make it, so they know I went to some trouble and ask if I'm going to make them some each year.

    Anyone should love to get one of your baked goodies!!!!! Your pies look magnificent. Or make some kind of killer brownies or cupcakes. Of course--you are KINDA busy--so books or CD's are good too. :):)  

  11. # Blogger Dee Dee

    I have made the suggestion in the past that people not get gifts for my children (and especially not me). I know that people like to give, so instead I say for them to get a present for the angel tree (or a similar program) for a child that wouldn't otherwise get anything. People often think this is a great idea (they still sometimes get a gift), but they often say to do the same thing in turn.

    Or, I know some people that chose one family member's name and only buy for that member. That way, everyone gets one present and only buys one present.

    I don't want my children to lose the meaning of Christmas with loads and loads of stuff. My husband and I don't normally exchange presents anymore (just stockings). Instead, we do things such as buy a new bedroom set that we wanted anyway.  

  12. # Blogger Ramona

    I'm almost embarrassed to admit this, but last year, I procrastinated so much, that I ended up doing ALL of my shopping a mere day before Christmas...at Walmart.
    Not exactly classy, but everyone seemed happy with their gifts, and it took all of three hours, and one very full shopping cart!  

  13. # Blogger Kristi

    M-That's a great tip. Thanks for passing that along! And I've ordered some calendars too. Perfect for family members!

    Geekwif-I love the book idea. And yes, online shopping is definitely the way to go.

    Thalia-That's another fantastic idea. You must have some very cool and progressive in-laws. If I did that for mine...well, let's just say they wouldn't get it.

    Marie-The drawing names idea has been tossed around for years, but rejected everytime. And I've ordered a bunch of photo gifts too. Perfect for grandmas and aunts!

    Shannon-So you feel my pain then! I wish my family was a bit more progressive and would go for the cow idea. But I have a feeling they would be completely confused by it.

    Cal-lol. All the more money you have to spend on me then!

    Christine-Yup. I'm all about Thanksgiving too. I know I posted that I wished I could handmake some of my gifts, but in reality, I have no time to do this. And you're right: good yarn costs a fortune. Ho-hum. :(

    Sunshine-Those are both great ideas, and ones relatives would love.

    Sher-You are a master of the culinary arts, so of course people love your jam! I wish I had the time to do what I wrote about (that is, make or bake gifts), but after writing that, I realized it's probably much quicker to shop, unfortunately.

    Dianne-Rich and I have done the "buy one big gift" thing for eachother too (like you and B did with the bedroom set) and I love the fact that you're trying to preserve the true meaning of Christmas with the kids. That's definitely something I'm going to be working on with Isabella when she's older.

    Ramona-That is hilarious!  

  14. # Blogger l

    I guess it would be near blasphemy to suggest to your family that you draw names from a hat, wouldn't it?  

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