Tips for holiday shopping and gift-giving.

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Yes, I know, I should have posted this list about four weeks ago. After each Christmas, I remember all the tips that I should’ve used to make my shopping easier. By the time the next Christmas rolls around, I’ve forgotten all my hard-won lessons. But not this time. I’m making a list, and checking it twice next December.

Here are my tips for holiday shopping—the ones I managed to follow did make my life a lot easier.

1. Keep a list. Starting in September, start keeping a written list of gift ideas.

2. Ask for suggestions. We all love the thrill of buying that perfect, unexpected gift. But it’s such a rare pleasure; so often, surprise gifts don’t work. It’s okay to ask people what they’d like to get.

3. Ask questions. When people suggest gifts for themselves, make sure you know exactly what you’ll be looking for. My father asked for socks. It wasn’t until I was in a department store that I realized I didn’t know much about his sock preferences. I knew he didn’t want a pattern, but what length? what texture? thin or thick?

4. Make a call. If you’re planning to make a special trip to pick up a particular item, it really pays to call first to make sure the store carries it.

5. Encourage collections. If people collect something, you can always buy the perfect gift. My mother buys me a Christmas ornament from an Alice in Wonderland series (this year: the Jabberwocky). The only trick is keeping track.

6. Carry your list. That list you’ve been working on for months? Don’t leave it in your desk at the office.


From 2006 through 2014, as she wrote The Happiness Project and Happier at Home, Gretchen chronicled her thoughts, observations, and discoveries on The Happiness Project Blog.

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