Gift hack saving Aussies money and time this Christmas

Cropped shot of kids decorating the Christmas tree
Image: Getty

Before we start on this present-buying tradition, it’s important to note the time of year that you’re reading this. You may have missed the opportunity to make this happen in your gift-buying circles in time for this year’s Christmas.

As such, suggesting this option could get you into a lot of trouble and cause some family drama – not needed, given everything else that’s been going on in 2020.

But if you’re 99 per cent sure that no one in your circle has started their holiday shopping yet, then this little trick could be for you – and your family and friends may just thank you for it.

For years, the adults in my family continued with a tradition of buying Christmas presents. December would come round, and we’d start the process of buying gift after gift, useless stuff no one wanted so that we could keep up the tradition of giving. This got even more complicated, messy and expensive as we started to have kids.

That was until six years ago, when one family member finally made the call: Why don’t we try a Secret Santa (Kris Kringle)?

Of course, everybody jumped at the opportunity. We’d all been waiting for this moment, but no one had the courage to call for it, believing we’d be upsetting someone in the process.

No one was upset. And our Christmases got easier and more affordable in the process.

Not only that, but we went one step further. We didn’t just create the Secret Santa list that would tell who was buying for whom (automatically via an online generator which can eliminate couples buying for each other).

We also each specified a three-point ‘wish list’ to send to Santa Claus, featuring items and experiences that would fall within the spending limit.

Participation in the ‘wish list’ was and remains compulsory and – as we found – the more specific you get with your details (clothing sizes, restaurant voucher ideas, pattern colours and even pictures of desired items or experiences) the better and happier everyone would be.

Not only did this ‘wish list’ make Christmas more affordable, less time consuming and therefore relaxing, it also became a handy reference point regarding what each family member may want for a later occasion like a birthday, given only one item of three on the list would be purchased, leaving two for other opportunities.

And these gift ideas actually became conversation starters and opportunities to learn about each other: one family member was requesting paint brushes, so we’d talk about this new hobby.

Another wanted an online course, so we’d discuss what they were hoping to learn. And last year one member even wanted sewing supplies, which we laughed about “what are you going to do with that, make face masks?” Little did we know.

Keen to get this started in your own circle? (It could also apply to birthdays over the course of a year if you start now, or for other gift-buying occasions)

  1. Be the change: Somebody has to initiate and suggest the change and it may as well be you.

  2. If you are suggesting the change, be ready to go with the tech you need to make it happen.

  3. By ‘tech’, just run an online search and find one of the many ‘Secret Santa’ generators out there. Collect the email addresses of those participating, feed them into the generator and Santa will tell you who is buying for whom.

  4. Send around an email requesting the ‘wish lists’ and the rules of what can and can’t be included, along with a must-not-exceed price guide. Suggest participants get detailed with their three preferred items and add pictures to their lists. No one will provide this back to you on time, so expect to do some chasing.

  5. Once everyone knows who they are buying for (information which remains anonymous), then digitally share the collected ‘Wish List’ to everyone – important, as this is an opportunity to learn just how off your gift giving has been for years.

  6. Come Christmas (birthdays or whatever the gift-buying occasion) relax, knowing you’re giving exactly what the other person wants.

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