Monday, November 22, 2010

Non-gift Giving

While we're on this gift giving topic (see last post), let's just acknowlege what we all know: We already have too much stuff. If this is your lament, here are some ideas to consider:

1. GIVE EXPERIENCES, NOT THINGS. Gift cards, tickets to a play or sporting event, or a spa treatment all fit into this category.

2. GIVE TO CHARITY IN RECIPIENTS' NAMES. Give to a cause that matters to the recipients, rather than you. For example, my sister and her family are very involved in their church. Though I haven't done it yet, I always think about buying a cow or chicks or bunnies in their name for a family in need through Heifer International (

3.  GIVE TO THOSE IN NEED:  Rather than exchanging gifts among your friends and/or family, adopt a family and buy for those in need.  A women's group I belong to does this each year.  These families are really in need, evidenced by neccesities, not wants, on their wish lists.

4.  GIVE THE GIFT OF YOUR TIME OR SKILLS. Offer to babysit for your sibling or best friend so they can have a night out without the extra expense of a babysitter. If you have a skill (decorating, painting, working with electricity or computers), offer your services in lieu of a physical gift. Last year my brother-in-law gave us the gift of installing new light fixtures for us. I wonder if there is an expiration date on that???

5.  SKIP THE GIFTS ALL TOGETHER: This one is hard to do, especially if kids are involved. I'll admit, I love to open gifts, and love watching somebody open what I hope is the perfect gift that I have found for them. But, it does get expensive. And, you sometimes end up with duds. A few years ago, we decided with my husband's siblings that we wouldn't exchange gifts among the siblings any longer. It saves us time and money, and puts the focus more on the kids than the adults. It's worked really well for us, but certainly isn't the right option for everybody.

Happy non-gift giving this year!

Until next time...

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Running Christmas List

Yes, it's that time of year again.  And no, this does not mean everything on my Christmas wish list is related to running.

Has your mother/spouse/child asked you yet, "What do you want for Christmas?"  If not, it won't be long before they do.  Will you have your answers ready?  Better yet, will those around you have their list ready when you ask them what they want?

My answer is the Running, or Cumulative, Christmas List.  I keep a sheet of paper in the kitchen, and throughout the year jot down ideas as they come to me, or as those I give gifts to make comments about what they wish they had.  It's how I know this year my husband's grandmother is getting a really awesome wine bottle opener like ours.  She thought ours was so cool last year, and now I don't have to give a second thought to what to get her. 

I also try to keep a running list of what I want but never bother to buy for myself.  My family isn't quite as helpful in giving me their lists.

There are two AWESOME benefits to the running list.  1) You don't have to try to come up with last minute gifts and just hope the recipient will love them.  2) when you know ahead of time what you are getting each person on your list, you can plan your holiday spending wisely.  You can look through ads to and buy when the item is on sale, or spread out the buying months so that you pay for everthing right away an aren't stuck with a mondo credit card bill in January.  Most years my goal is to get the majority of my Christmas shopping done by Halloween.  This year, that is definitely NOT happening, but it's nice to have a goal (as opposed to my husband, who before I came along was a Christmas Eve shopper!!).

If you are currently trying to assemle the wishes of all those you give to, here's another idea.  If you will be with family for Thanksgiving, let them know NOW that you hope to collect ideas when you are together for the holiday.  It gives them lead time to think about their own wish list.  And, you should be prepared with yours as well. 

If you have a lot of kids you buy gifts for, consider bringing all the Sunday ads with you to Thanksgiving (Target, Toys R US, etc.).  Assign each kid to a different colored crayon, and let them circle all the things they want (be prepared for them to circle everything).  Then review options with parents, and be sure to get current clothes and shoe sizes.

Finally, if you really want to get your point across, you can adopt my niece's approach.  Last year she put together a three-ring binder with all of her wishes.  She included printouts from websites that showed the store, item, price, color and size of everything she wanted.  Do you think she might take after her Auntie??  Her specificity paid off.  We knew exactly what she wanted, it took the guess work out of buying for her, we could look for sale prices because we had time to make the purchases, AND she got exactly what she wanted.  What a lucky girl.

Happy Listing!

Until next time...

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Organizing Your Magazines

I got back into my organizing groove last night, and boy, did it feel good!

I have a wicker chest in the kitchen with 3 stacked drawers.  The top drawer collects items that need to get filed, and once full, is my signal that it's time to file.  In the process of sorting, and then actually filing the items in the file drawers in the basement, I found no fewer than 4 folders and collections of pages I've torn out of magazines over the last 1-2 years.  Clearly, I had some organizing to do!

If you buy or subscribe to a lot of magazines, here are my suggestions for keeping them under control:

1.  Only buy magazines you know you will read and thoroughly enjoy.  If you find you are buying a magazine for only one column, or you rarely get to reading what you buy, quit buying!  Local libraries carry oodles of titles that you can check out for free.

2.  Read immediately, or set aside weekly reading time to prevent magazines from piling up and gathering dust. 

3.  Only save what you know you will refer back to.  There's no need to keep full magazines for most people.  Tear out the pages that you want to keep.  And, if you have a subscription, you can likely access back issues online anyway. 

4.  Devise a filing system for what you save.  This is what I spent last night doing.  I gathered all 4 piles of torn out sheets, and sorted them into categories.  For me, those happened to be:  Money Saving Ideas, Blogging Ideas, Home & Organizing, Fitness, Dream Home Pictures, Crafts, Quotes and Photos, To-Read.  Once sorted, each stack went into a labeled file folder and filed.  Now when I'm looking for craft ideas or tips to share with you all, I know exactly what file to go to.

Now it's your turn!  Share with us your favorite magazines and your strategies for keeping them organized!  My favorite titles?  Real Simple, Woman's Day, and Southern Living.

Happy Reading; Happy Organizing.

Until next time...