Hacking the Holidays

by Ginger on December 11, 2012

in Celebrations

The holidays, they are CAH-RAZY. Shopping and doing and making and jetting and wrapping and packing and shipping and decorating and the list goes on and on. It’s really easy to get sucked into the whirlwind of the season and find your holiday spirit buried somewhere under your to-do list. I fall victim to it all too often myself.

This year, I have vowed to take it easy on myself. We’re not doing Christmas cards (sorry family!). Our philosophy with the decorations has been “eh, good enough.” I’m not killing myself to find THE. PERFECT.GIFT.EVER. for all my recipients. I’ve done 90% of my shopping online so I don’t have to deal with the crowds. I’m taking any and every small holiday hack I can apply to my life, and using it with GLEE. And I’ll be honest, I am significantly less stressed about this holiday than I have been in years.

So, in the spirit of giving, I present to you some of my favorite holiday hacks. May they help you the way they have helped me.

1. USPS.com to limit your post office exposure. I have my husband to thank for this hack. For his business, he ships packages ALL the time, and this is how he keeps from going insane having to spend all his time at the post office. Because if you do the “ship online” option at USPS, you’re able to create, pay for, and print your mailing label…and then you just have to drop the package off at the counter at the post office. No waiting in line! And if you use flat rate boxes, it’s even easier (also not something you need to wait in line for at the post office). You’ll need to know the weight of your package, but until recently we got the weight with our household scale, so it’s not a deal breaker. And seriously, no waiting in line at the post office!

2. Use social media to help with gift giving. Ok, I’m sure you’ve all thought of this, but it seriously has saved my butt on more than one occasion. Not sure what sorts of gifts to get someone in your life? Take a stroll through their Facebook feed. Browse through their Instagram pics, or, even better, through the pics they have liked themselves on Instagram. Wander through their blog, tumblr, twitter page. And of course, if they’re on Pinterest, you’ve basically been handed a giant wish list. Seriously, if your recipient is on social media, you should be able to use that to your advantage (it’s not being a stalker if it’s done out of LOVE!).

3. Ship to your/your significant other’s office to avoid gift spoilers AND make sure there’s someone to sign for the package. With a husband who works from home, I don’t really have to worry about the signing for a package thing that often. But with a husband who works from home, it is ENTIRELY probable that he would see a package delivered that is meant to have his name under the tree. With most major retailers, it’s not a big deal–no telling whether that Amazon box is for him or for your mom or for the kid or whoever. But if you’re ordering something from a specialty retailer, their branding on their packaging may just give away your surprise should the intended recipient see it first. So I try to make sure to ship those kind of special gifts to my office. I know I’m not going to have to go chasing it all over town if my husband isn’t home, AND I know that I can keep it a surprise! I can only imagine that as Jackson gets older/can read, this will become an even more important hack.

4. Prep kid gifts as you go to keep from doing it ALL late the night before. We have already learned the lesson that certain kid gifts need to be ready to go as soon as they’re opened. Whether it’s putting in batteries, putting something together, or just dealing with some of the crazy packaging (I don’t remember toys being SCREWED onto the packaging when I was a kid!), it can mean a long night of prep work if you save it all for the last minute. So, if this is part of how you operate, why add it to the list of things you have to do on the big night? This does mean you need a really good hiding place, since it can be harder to hide toys than boxes, but if it buys you 45 more minutes with some eggnog (or, let’s be honest, with another toy that HAS to be done that night) on Christmas Eve, it’s worth it!

So there you have it, some of my favorite (simple) holiday hacks. None of these are earth-shattering, I know, but it’s usually the things you don’t think of that end up being the sanity savers (seriously, NO WAITING IN LINE AT THE POST OFFICE).

I’d LOVE to hear yours–what are your workarounds/shortcuts/hacks to get through the season?

emily December 11, 2012 at 9:59 am

“ship to the office” is the greatest idea in the world. i hate having to scramble to the post office (or worse yet, fedex distribution hub) to pick up a package. this worked fabulously until i once ordered myself an adult-sized hula hoop and had it delivered to the snarky PR firm i worked at. they made fun of me for weeks.

my mom had a hack for having three kids: every year for my ENTIRE life, our wrapping paper was color-coded. still is, actually. no gift tags needed: my brother gets paper that is predominantly blue, i get paper that is green, my sister gets red. and the funniest part? we NEVER noticed, and thought she was a damn genius when we were in our teens and finally pointed it out to us.

Ginger December 11, 2012 at 2:16 pm

At my company, I think they’d just be fighting over who got to play with the hula hoop first.

And that’s a fantastic hack for multiple kids. Brilliant!

Alyssa December 11, 2012 at 2:58 pm

My mom does this, too! And she keeps it a secret until *right* when we open presents, so it’s a fun little guessing game to boot.

Polly December 11, 2012 at 10:21 am

USPS.com does one even better … you can leave the package for your postal carrier. Or even request a pick up. I haven’t gone to the post office in years. Love, love, love click-n-ship.

Ginger December 11, 2012 at 2:17 pm

I always forget about the pick-up part because my husband usually has more packages than our mailman will pick up, but you’re totally right!

Elizabeth December 11, 2012 at 2:03 pm

I was going to say – if you’re going to print out the label anyway, you can just have usps come pick it up. I haven’t set foot in the post office in three years. Best invention ever.

Ginger December 11, 2012 at 2:21 pm

See, this is what I get for not thinking past *my* experience–we usually have more packages than they want to come pick up, so we just take them straight to the loading docks. But you’re right, they’ll come get them!

Nilsa @ SoMi Speaks December 11, 2012 at 2:20 pm

Loved this list! Our local USPS office is THE WORST (people fume about them online all.the.time!), so anything I can do to avoid their lines is brilliant. Love the idea of printing off shipping labels at home.

Also, packaging today must be developed by the military to ensure no one can get in, not even someone who legitimately purchased it and just wants their kid to have fun. Great reminder for us regarding prepping things well in advance. We’re not really buying our son much this year (he’s only 2), but I’m sure that will change in the coming years.

The only other thing I’d add here that’s helped make the last few holiday seasons much less stressful is I’ve started buying gifts as early as October. Buy a few gifts every month allows me to shop thoughtfully (even if it is online), rather than rushing through a list just to get it done. I also heard someone say starting mid-year, they begin buying Target gift cards, because they always wind up giving those away to cleaning people, paper delivery kid, etc. Not a bad idea (though, I’m never prepared quite that far in advance).

Alyssa December 11, 2012 at 2:32 pm

My best holiday tip is to online shop with Ebates. If you go to the Ebates site and click through to the stores you want, you get a percentage back on most purchases. I’ve earned like $30 back so far this Christmas. http://www.ebates.com/rf.do?referrerid=x8T6T5FHJYwC8dh3PAqTPg%3D%3D

I also google coupon codes to save additional money.

I get GIDDY when I save money. Giddy!!

And, every year I take a day off work to wrap presents and watch Christmas movies. Turns a chore into something I look forward to every year.

Elizabeth December 11, 2012 at 3:39 pm

These are some great tips! I sell a bunch of books on Amazon, and I finally got sick of the post office, so bought a mailing scale for like $20. Best buy ever!

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