Gift-Giving Tips: Image of our long-haired black and white cat Bonnie on a pile of Christmas presents.

9 Gift-Giving Tips to Help You Bring Joy to Your World

Are you ready for some Christmas? Either way, you came to the right place. Today you get a bunch of gift-giving tips to make the holiday elf inside of you Happy, not Grumpy.

Because grumpy holidays are not fun holidays. Trust me, I speak from experience. Don’t believe me? Click here.

Oh, oh, oh, and if you haven’t read last week’s tips on how to make the 2017 holiday season merry and bright, check them out here.

Gift-Giving Tip #1: Set a deadline.

Though not a gift idea per se, this tip is very important in the pursuit of holiday happiness.

Plan to finish your holiday shopping at least two weeks before Christmas.

This allows you to relax and pay attention to other aspects of the upcoming holidays: wrapping presents, baking cookies, meditating on the original reason for the season.

Gift-Giving Tip #2: Be mysterious.

Most people love a good mystery. Think Nancy Drew, The Hardy Boys, Stranger Things. Don’t tell me how it ends. Tony Bear and I are binge-watching it right now.

This holiday season you can tap into the magic of mystery by initiating a Secret Santa Gift Exchange. For instructions, click here.

Plan a Christmas Cookie Ninja Mission: We do this every year. At some point on Christmas Eve, we load up Christmas bags or cute cookie tins (from the Dollar Store) with a variety of offerings: pizelles and biscotti, chocolate dipped and decorated pretzel rods, or a variety of homemade cookies and candy.

Once it’s dark out, dash out into the snow (hopefully) with your kids to stealthily deliver the Christmas treats. On each recipient’s porch, be sure to tuck the goodies in a location that is sheltered (You don’t want Rocky Raccoon to find it.) yet readily visible.

To nurture kindness and compassion, ask your children to decide who the recipients will be: ie. neighbors, friends, shut-ins.

Gift-Giving Tip #3: O, Christmas Tree (Ornament)

After college,  a friend and I moved to Fairfax, Virginia. That December, we put up a Christmas tree but then had no ornaments to hang. I ended up cutting dozens of snowflakes out of white copier paper. Shhh, don’t tell my old boss at the Times Journal in Springfield.

To ensure our kids never have a similar experience, we give each of our children a Christmas ornament every year.

Gift-Giving Tip #4: The Gift of Best Virginia

Am I the only West Virginian who is crazy about our state? I think not. Our state’s kooky shape lends itself to all kinds of gift items.

-Emily Kurth is the genius behind the adorable signs (and repurposed furniture) of Coco and June. I pretty much covet everything she makes. The Elegant Alley Cat in downtown Morgantown sells a ton of Emily’s creations, many which feature a West Virginia motif.

Check out both Coco and June and The Elegant Alley Cat on Facebook and Instagram. Amy at the Elegant Alley Cat said if you see something you want, give them a call (304-292-4433) to arrange purchase and shipping.

The Oddbird Gift Emporium on Capital Street in Charleston carries several West Virginia items as well. When I was down there earlier this year (to have my curly hair cut by the only Deva-certified stylist in West Virginia, Larry Bragg at 712Salon), I picked up West Virginia-shaped earrings and a fantastic piece of wall art: an almost-heaven-shaped piece of distressed sheet metal with a cut-out of the word “HOME.”

-A few months back, when Tony Bear and I were on a date night at the Morgantown Bed Bath and Beyond store (How’s that for romantic?), we came across a display of West Virginia-shaped cutting boards. It was Tony Bear’s idea to pick up several for Christmas gifts. Shhh! Don’t tell the kids.

Gift-Giving Tip #5: Give Yourself Away

Some people don’t want stuff. They want you. Or your mad skills. Accommodate them by using a computer and printer (or pretty paper and colorful markers) to create gift certificates. Some ideas are:

  •  top-to-bottom housecleaning
  •  car detailing
  •  dinner and a movie date (Or, hey, Bed Bath and Beyond!)
  •  3 hours of babysitting
  •  a home-cooked meal

Gift-Giving Tip #6: The Perfect Grandparent Gift

Each holiday season, using photographs we take throughout the year, we create a family calendar. We’ve done this for 10 years now. I always order one for us, one for each set of grandparents, and now that the girls are out on their own, they each receive one also.

We create our photo calendars (for $10 each) via the online photography department at Walmart. Simply create an account, choose a template, then upload pictures to fill each month’s page. Once the project is finished, you review it, decide how many to buy, pay, and indicate where you want them delivered.

I love that these calendars record a year in the life of our family. This is a huge benefit to me. Because I am very, very behind on printing out family pictures and getting them into photo albums.

In addition, at Walmart and photography-based sites like Snapfish, tons of other photo gift items are available: mugs, mousepads, keychains, throws, etc..


Gift-Giving Tip #7: The Gift of an Experience

Introduce your kids to the idea of choosing “an experience” over “stuff.”

Santa taught us this concept the year he gave our family a gift certificate for:  “A Weekend at Splash Lagoon,” an awesome indoor waterpark in Erie, Pennsylvania. After that trip, which was of course, a huge hit, it was easy to say to the kids, “You can ask for a bunch of toys, or you can ask Santa to bring us another cool weekend.”

Which is probably why Santa went on to give our family additional weekend-trips to places like Blackwater Falls State Park and Hocking Hills, Ohio. The Hocking Hills area has fantastic hiking trails, and many of the cabins there boast hot tubs.

For something more affordable, consider a day trip to a zoo– Cincinnati, Columbus, or Pittsburgh.

Santa changed things up last year with our family gift. He brought us a karaoke machine. And an extra microphone, for duets. Now, how did he know everyone in our family likes to sing?

Gift-Giving Tip #8: Give Tradition

There are two benefits to giving someone the same present every year. It makes things easy for the giver. And if the getter loves the item, they look forward to receiving it.

For years now, our older daughter has given Tony Bear homemade Sesame Candy. It’s not difficult or expensive to make, and he loves it big time. Here’s the recipe if you want to give it a try.

For more do-it-yourself gift ideas, click here. One or more of these 60 ideas could become your family tradition.

Stuffing stockings is another way to give tradition. Every year our stockings include: a pack of gum, a chapstick, a Terry’s dark chocolate “orange,” an I-tunes gift card, and a jar of Nutella.

Gift-Giving Tip #9: Give to the Less Fortunate

If your family has been super blessed, as mine has, consider blessing someone else.

Once the bell-ringers and their red buckets appear outside of Kroger’s and WalMart, I make sure to carry a supply of $1 bills to drop into the Salvation Army buckets around town. When the kids were younger, I let them do the bucket-stuffing.

In the past, Santa has slipped a $20 bill in each child’s stocking with instructions to donate it to the charity of their choice. To date, The Salvation Army, our local homeless shelter, World Vision’s “catalog,” and Morgantown’s animal shelter have all been recipients of our donations.

Teaching our children to be generous and compassionate may just be the most important gift we give them.


I hope these tips give you some fresh ideas for the upcoming holidays. If you have additional gifting ideas, please share them below in the comments.

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