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How I Decide What Gifts to Give My Family and Friends

How This 3-Category Shopping Method Helps Me Buy Meaningful Holiday Gifts

Christmas Gift boxes background closeup. Presents in craft and coloured paper decorated with ribbon bows.

The holiday season is usually merry and bright, until it's time to decide what gifts to get for the important people in your life. The stress of finding the perfect gift, or even deciding on a gift-giving strategy, can be challenging — but it definitely doesn't have to be. You see, my family that gathers for Christmas together is large, and buying gifts for almost 10 people at the holidays can get expensive very quickly. That's where my tried-and-true method of gift buying and gift giving steps in: the three-category method.

  1. Something Useful
    This category can mean giving a new drill or a fun grill accessory to my dad, or giving an electric tea kettle or lap desk to my grandma. This is the category where I really have to think about what the person likes to do, or something they have mentioned to me in the past few months that they would like to have to make their lives a little easier. This gift is always selected with that person in mind, knowing it will be something they can use for years to come. These gifts are usually the more expensive gifts that I will buy. Because of that, I do try to stay within a budget for each one, watch for things to go on sale, or use coupons when I can.
  2. Something Homemade
    Yes, I still make a homemade gift for each person in my family every year. These homemade gifts are often some of the favourite things I give and that people say they have received. Homemade gifts mean you took the time to think of someone and actually sit down to craft the perfect gift rather than find something online. In years past, that has meant making a photo album on my computer, compiling memories of a trip I took with someone. Sometimes that has meant making a family cookbook with old recipes that have been passed down and given it to my mom. And other times, everyone gets the same homemade gift, like the year I made decorative wreaths in our collegiate team's colours.
  3. Something That Reminds Them of Where We Went This Year
    Usually, my parents and I take a holiday to somewhere new each year. On top of that, I try to take my other family members somewhere fun away from our hometown for a day or two during the year. During the holiday season, I try to find a gift that will remind them of where we went that year. For my dad, it might be a bottle of jerk spices that I was able to import from Jamaica, a stop on our cruise. For my mom, it might be a set of pajamas with the Eiffel Tower on them since we went to Paris. For my grandma and grandpa, it might be a Christmas tree ornament that looks like a churro since we stopped at a local churro spot in town and they tried the fried confection for the first time in their entire lives.

Figuring out the perfect gifts for everyone on my list became so much easier once I implemented the three-category method. I am constantly able to narrow down a long list of ideas to a smaller list of must gets for each person. With this strategy, no one in my family feels like they received something generic because everyone gets something that was tailored just to them. And with this strategy, I don't spend the entire holiday season in a panic over not finding the perfect gifts for everyone on my list. I can just sit back, drink a cup of hot chocolate, and enjoy the time with my family.

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