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9 Ways to Take the Stress Out of Holiday Gifting

How to Lower Your Holiday StressNow that the holiday season is around the corner, and we are preoccupied with stress, family life, and work balance, the last thing we need to exert our energy on is shopping for holiday gifts for our loved ones, and close friends. Below is a psychological guide to help you realize that the art of gifting should be a simple one at best — straight from the heart and with no fuss or commotion. If done correctly, and in the right way, you — the giver — and the receiver will feel truly at ease, and genuinely appreciative regardless of the amount of money you spent.

  1. It’s not the gift, but the thought that counts. As trite as the old adage goes, it is trite for a reason. Think about your gift carefully and even more so for those closest to you. In general, try to give something you know the person wants and would appreciate. This of course would require the art of actually thinking about them.
  2. If you can avoid it, try not to dole out cold hard cash. Aside from appearing potentially tacky and maybe even offensive to the recipient, giving money can send the message that you don’t care about what they want, even if it’s the furthest thing from the truth. The exception to the rule is if they have expressed their pickiness in the past and would actually be quite pleased with receiving cash. Another exception to this rule is if you truly know the person well.
  3. The monetary value of the gift is unimportant. Try to remember that whether you are the receiver, or the giver, too much emphasis should not be placed on the actual monetary value of the gift when in the process of exchanging gifts.
  4. Give to those closest to you first, especially if you are on a tight budget. Budgeting inefficiently or not having a budget at all can create worry, stress, and anxiety, especially when bills start ringing in after the New Year. This is when acute stress kicks in for most people. It is imperative to try to resist the temptation to over spend, and if need be, just spend on close family and friends in order to stay in line with your budget.
  5. Psychological research over the last five years consistently reveals that people prefer experiences to things. Therefore, aim for reasonable gifts that you can do together with the receiver. Things like a massage, theatre tickets, or another fun activity. Some objects, like a subscription to their favorite magazine, can also be considered an experience — so long as they are well-chosen. For example, a subscription to a food magazine for your foodie friend, coupled with a recipe you will enjoy making together.
  6. If at all possible, wrap the gift. A nicely wrapped gift, (bonus points if you do it yourself) adds a really nice personal touch, regardless of what the gift actually is. It demonstrates that you took the actual time to make them feel special.
  7. Include a thoughtful message with the gift, either on a card, or a handwritten letter. Don’t just buy one of those cards with a generic message — write the message yourself! Handwriting a personal note has become a lost art. Revel in its unique comeback. The receiver will truly appreciate the time you took to write a handwritten note, and will be very touched.
  8. Practice the art of gift giving to yourself. Don’t forget to treat yourself this holiday season. You are your most prized possession, so take the utmost time to practice self-care, and treat yourself well in whichever way you chose. Your mental, physical, and emotional health will thank you!
  9. To those individuals you know very well, like family and close friends, try to abstain from giving anything generic that can be relegated to a co-worker. Chances are these individuals have been in your life for a long time, have done remarkable things for you, and in all likelihood would appreciate something more thoughtful, even if they have never uttered a word to you about it. Just remember, something thoughtful does not have to be expensive. In fact, most truly thoughtful gifts should not break the bank. It is often the most thoughtful people that inherently know this.
  10. While I have addressed the art of traditional gift giving the right way, it’s important to give oneself and others the gift of letting go, the most important gift of all. Forgive yourself, and then others. Letting go and moving on from past mistakes and regrets might seem hard at first, but the act of forgiving yourself is a priceless gift that will grow in value over time. No physical gift can ever, or should ever replace that. Remember not to forget to tell your loved ones how much they mean to you. Most people are not craving physical gifts, but a warm and genuine gesture from the heart that lasts everyday and all year around.

With these holiday practical gift giving tips in mind, the holiday times will be much less stressful for you, so you can truly enjoy the holiday spirit, and season together with your family and loved ones without working yourself up into a an emotional and physical frenzy before ringing in the new year.

9 Ways to Take the Stress Out of Holiday Gifting

Emily Waters

Emily Waters earned her Master's degree in industrial psychology with an emphasis in human relations. She possesses keen insight into the field of applied psychology, organizational development, motivation, and stress, the latter of which is ubiquitous in the workplace environment and in one’s personal life. One of her academic passions is the understanding of human nature and illness as it pertains to the mind and body. Prior to obtaining her degree, she worked in both the corporate and nonprofit sectors. Presently, she teaches a variety of psychology courses both in public and private universities.

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APA Reference
Waters, E. (2018). 9 Ways to Take the Stress Out of Holiday Gifting. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 1, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Jul 2018 (Originally: 17 Dec 2017)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.