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How to make holiday gift giving less stressful

Holiday shopping is stressful. Every year I make a list and check it twice and then I freak out. What am I going to get for all of these people? How am I going to afford to get stuff for all these people?

Here’s the deal. If you are feeling this way, most likely your family and friends are too. Talk to them and change the rules.

Here is what some families do:

Draw names

Holiday gifts - Drawing names
Image: Amber Dusick/Sheknows

I did this for years with my extended family. Each year on Thanksgiving the adults would write their names on pieces of paper and pass around a hat. If you drew someone in your immediate family you had to put it back and try again. Then we’d all write down our wish lists to give our secret gift giver some ideas. We still gave gifts to the children and parents and grandparents but among the siblings, aunts and uncles we only had to buy one gift. Online name drawing sites like Elfster are great for families who are spread out all over the map.

More: 10 ‘Harry Potter’ gifts every muggle kid needs

Handmade only

Handmade holiday gifts
Image: Amber Dusick/Sheknows

This is something I’ve done with my friends for years. We don’t buy each other gifts, we make each other gifts. I have one friend who knits, one who makes jam and one who bakes the most amazing cookies. This stuff is like crafted gold to me. Obviously, this only works if you and your friends or family are interested and have the skills and time.

Annual gift themes

Holiday gifts - Annual gift themes
Image: Amber Dusick/Sheknows

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You could also come up with a theme for gift giving. This makes it easier because you have some direction and you can get the same thing for each person. We did this one year and it was fun. Thrifted or used only? Edible only? Drinkable only? Books? Movies? And of course you could go the experience route such as tickets to movies or museums.

A friend’s family picks a theme each year. Last year they all exchanged books and this year they are all exchanging dish towels. I don’t know how they decide on a theme but they all get along really well so it works for them. In families where this will just cause more drama, draw a theme out of a hat maybe? That could work.

No gifts

Obviously, not exchanging gifts at all is an option. One I really wish my family could pull off but we’ve never been able to. Every year we’ve agreed on this at least one person still buys gifts which makes the rest of us look like jerks.

Holiday gifts - No gifts
Image: Amber Dusick/Sheknows

However, some families do have success with this. Or so I’ve heard. Some just exchange cards and give gifts to children only. Another idea is to do something together instead of exchanging gifts. Go to a nice restaurant or a show or something. Other families donate as a group to a charity or volunteer together.

More: 20 Unique gifts for kids you can find on Amazon

White elephant

This is where each person brings a gift and wraps it. Unmarked. The gift is supposed to be something ridiculous or weird. Then you take turns picking a gift from the pile and opening it. Then on the next person’s turn, they can either “steal” a gift or pick a new unwrapped one. I’ve been to holiday parties with this game and it is hilarious. This is also how I ended up with an electric nose picker.

Tell us: How does your family handle exchanging holiday gifts?

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