It’s the most wonderful time of the year… and I don’t just mean because the election is finally over. Although, I do also mean that. What I’m actually talking about though is the holiday season! A time of seasonal warmth, cheer and general togetherness. Things that we could all use a bit more of this year.

While the holiday season can be the best time of the year, it can also be the most stressful part of the year. Part of that stress is related to the fact that fortunately or unfortunately, the holiday season also means gifts. I’ve previously talked about gift giving strategies and alternatives, so today I wanted to discuss a couple of tips to make it through the gift giving season.

Start Shopping Early

If you haven’t started shopping for those that you do give gifts every year, I recommend doing that now. From a personal finance standpoint, it is always helpful to spread out the spending (even if you’ve done a sinking fund). Even more important though, is that if you are going to bother giving a gift, starting early gives you the time to find your loved ones something truly special. Now, when I say special, I don’t mean expensive by any means. I’ve given very inexpensive gifts, usually something homemade or gone in on something more expensive for my mom with my brother.

Specifically, I’m talking about taking the time to find a gift for someone that they either need or will use. In the past, I have focused on the price of something too much and planned too little. The result was getting some of the people that I care about, things that I don’t think they want just because I felt obligated to give them a present. Now, my thought is that if we will be exchanging gifts, which by no means is a requirement of any holiday, I’m going to be all-in on it. AND I’m going to do it in my budget. The difference is all in starting early.

As icing on the figgy pudding (is that a thing?), the earlier I start, the less I will have to pay in shipping if I don’t need to ship it in 1 or 2 days.

Starting early on your shopping list also helps you follow my next tip.

Shop Small

The coronavirus pandemic has hit everyone hard, but small business owners worldwide have been hit especially hard. What I love about shopping small is that it can be a great opportunity to find a one-of-a-kind type gift. Typically my method is to come up with a general idea of a gift for a friend and then I will go to Etsy or Amazon to help me narrow my idea down to something specific.

At this point you’re probably thinking, “You’re saying that I should use Amazon to shop small??” Yes. However, I won’t make any purchases from there. I only use it for ideas or as a starting place to then find the name of a smaller store that also happens to sell on Amazon. I’ve actually found out about new retailers quite often doing this. Even better is that half the time, the product will be less expensive on the original store’s site since they don’t have to pay any share to Amazon to market it.

As a last note, once you’ve supported a small business, leave them a review!

Don’t Be So Hard On Yourself

This isn’t really a financial tip as it is something that I need to just tell myself. If there are some decorations that aren’t up in time, cards or presents that go out late, don’t sweat it. That’s not the spirit of the season. More than anything, try to focus on spending time with loved ones, even if it’s only in a socially distant way. Trust me when I say that a phone call or a delivery cookies or maybe dad’s famous eggnog can go a long way.

With that said, it probably won’t be perfect, but perfection is a rarity in life. If 2020 has taught us anything, it is to give ourselves a break and just enjoy the little things. After all, it is the most wonderful time of the year.

What are some of your tips for a successful holiday season? Let me know in the comments below!