I’m sure some of you already have all your gifts purchased, tallied up and wrapped – under the tree.  But I’m sure there are many more of you that haven’t even started.  However, for all of us, there are three things that can really stress us out as the fun day of Christmas approaches. 


Oh, there are many more things that stress us out during the holidays, but I’m focusing on three big ones:




Maybe the first two sound the same, but they’re not, and I’ll explain below.  I’m hoping to offer some practical tips to alleviate the strain of all three, and actually make them enjoyable!

Tallying – This refers to keeping up with how many gifts each kid/person gets.  My mom always had me count and look at the “pile” and make sure they looked similar. As wrong as it may sound, I still do the same.  Once I’ve purchased ALL the gifts (I don’t wrap until everything is bought), I place the piles on the bed by name and look and count.  I don’t like having one kid get a huge box, while the other gets all small items.  I realize that kids need to learn that life’s not fair, but Christmas morning isn’t that time…in my opinion.  And besides, it’s fun to look and arrange and think, while sorting and tallying.

Totaling – Yes, this is the one – that grand total you’re spending on each person.  It can certainly be way over budget if we’re not careful.  I like to keep a notebook with columns for each person, list their gifts and the price beside each one.  This helps me stay within budget, because I keep track of what I’m spending.  Then there are all the peripheral gifts (just calling them that, not because they’re insignificant, but because they’re outside the family.)  If I can’t afford them one year, then I make something simple like cookies.  Who can’t use cookies for a family gathering?  Stockings are extra fillers and can drain the wallet!  And buying gifts for friends can certainly total another huge amount.  Here’s how to keep it simple:

  • Make your columns and the totals you can afford to spend for each family member. (If your family insists on purchasing gifts for everyone outside your immediate family and you cannot afford to do that, speak up!  Draw names!)

  • Make a separate column for stocking gifts and amounts you’re spending there, as well.

  • Make a column for hostess gifts, teacher gifts, and other people you want to thank and give to.

  • Make a column for friends’ gifts, what you can spend, or what you’re going to make.

  • Make a column for your spouse – don’t ever skip giving to each other – it’s important and fun!


Know the total amount you can spend for Christmas and make your column total add up to that amount (within a given amount of leeway.)

This may sound harsh and something you don’t want to do, but unbridled shopping – while it may be fun at the time – will make you cry come January.  And, you’ll want to leave a bit of change for after-Christmas sales for you and yours!

Wrapping – Some like to be elaborate and some make it so simple.  I’m probably somewhere in between.  I purchase all wrapping paper after Christmas for the next year.  It’s so cheap then, and that’s one less thing I have to worry with, when wrapping begins.  It’s also totally okay to use newspaper or brown paper, if wrapping paper is too pricey.  Gift tags, to me, take up the most time and are the most annoying.  This year, I’ve opted to just write everyone’s names on their gifts (in cursive) with a big black marker, I’ll use color-coordinate papers that are gray/silver backgrounds, and I’ll be done!  I skip bows because they make it impossible to stack gifts, and I opt for ribbon only on about every fourth gift, just so they look pretty under the tree.  Done!

For those that have slim budgets this year, may I suggest these simple ideas for gift giving?  These ideas are all about $5 or under: (Okay, so this is a 4th stressor - what to actually buy!)

  • A deck of cards with a batch of Chex mix to enjoy while they play – wrapped in a bright red bandanna!

  • A new measuring cup with five of your favorite recipes tucked inside, wrapped in tissue paper and tied with a pretty ribbon. 

  • A local food item, like a favorite salsa, and a cute bowl to dip from (purchase it at the dollar store!) Wrap in tissue and place in a bag.

  • A journal with a pen is a great gift.  Look on the shelves at the discount stores like Marshall or Ross, because sometimes they have the cutest journals!  Or even a devotional book would be nice!  Wrap in brown paper and tie up with string, like they used to do back in the olden days at country bookstores.

  • An adult coloring book with colored pencils. I’ve seen some of the coolest ones at the dollar store!  Place in a small shirt box and affix a big Christmas sticker, to wrap!

  • A bar of good chocolate.  I love the Lindt brand at the grocery store, as it’s 70% cacao and good for the heart!  Include a small back of peanuts, to go with, along with a note telling them to enjoy it at the movies. Slip this into a large envelope.

  • A caramel apple, if you feel so inclined to make.  Make a batch, sprinkle with chocolate chips and nuts.  Keep in the fridge, wrapped and ready, and deliver one by one to those gathered under the tree.

  • A package of hair clips – they’re all the rage right now!  Sparkly or geometric, you pick one for her and slip it in a nice card with a sweet message, and hand to her in the envelope.

  • A set of stainless steel drinking straws for the eco-minded folks on your list can be found back in the kitchen section of Marshalls, or on line!  These are fun and a new idea! 

  • A tiny live succulent is a welcome addition to any friend’s home! These are super trendy and fun. Set them on a window sill and ask them to seek and find them!

  • A bottle of gorilla glue. Seriously, it was on one of our guy’s lists, and it’s probably something everyone needs but forgets to ask for.  Just slip into a paper bag and roll it up.

  • A pair of socks is the most traditional gift, but it’s always a favorite, especially when they say something on the sole!  Chocolate lover socks or coffee lover socks are always a hit!  Roll them and tie with a ribbon and have them in a basket to toss to the recipient when it’s your turn to give.


I hope that wherever you find yourself in your budget this year that you’ll shop happily and joyfully as you make your lists, look at what you’ve bought, and wrap them all up!  Sit by the fire, listen to Christmas music, burn a scented candle, ask a friend over to wrap with you, watch a Hallmark movie, or whatever sets the mood – while you total, tally and wrap (and shop) the night away…

The Captain
Have You
3 Stressors
by Marcy Lytle

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