Countdown To The Holidays-How to Minimize Stress Series

November 16, 2014 § 1 Comment

November—It’s all about the gifts

Last month we spoke about the importance of your lists and getting answers so this month you can move forward and implement those decisions.

Hermes Corporate Gifts

Hermes Corporate Gifts

This month it is all about the gifts—purchasing, wrapping and planning how to get your gifts to the recipients.

Do yourself a favor and first read my blog about how to choose gifts and which type of gifts to give (Better To Give Then to Receive—Gift Buying Tips so you get information I didn’t rehash here but it’s just as important to your holiday attack plan:

First—Decide what to get each recipient

If you’re buying for your employer’s gift list you have some options: 1) Bring in a corporate gift buyer or personal shopper. They will make an appointment and presentation. A store like Tiffany’s has a Corporate Gift Department or any sales assistant in most Beverly Hills boutiques (insert your high-end shopping district here) or department stores would be happy to do this for their store; 2) Ask your employer to specify what to get people on their list; 3) At the very least, get an approximate budget and ask them to give you an idea of what that person likes (Favorite colors? Favorite authors? Do they like to cook or entertain? Approximate age? Wine person? Hobbies? Anything feedback will be helpful to you.)


Hit the computer and the streets. Shop with the intention of having all gifts before Thanksgiving, which allows time for returns and before your shopping mobility is severely hampered by the masses. Get in the stores early. Wear comfortable shoes. Map out your route and pay for parking with security so your packages are safe. Get your shipments early. You’re okay too if you get it done by Dec. 1 but it takes serious prioritizing of what gifts go out first. Sign up for Amazon Prime. It’s worth the money.

Tip 1) Don’t get caught up in the store shopping for your gifts. Take a photo and keep moving. Stay focused on your mission. I’d always overspend in stores I couldn’t afford and usually could find the item cheaper online later.

I hate the mallWhat else to plan for in advance?

Gift boxes—You need containers for every gift you buy. The only exception is a bulky child’s toy (i.e. bicycle), which can get over-wrapped in a red holiday bag. Pay for gift-wrapping whenever possible or go to somewhere like Box City and buy white gift boxes (not brown) to wrap. Higher end stores wrap for free, include a gift receipt or label and will indicate whom your gift is for with a post-it on your wrapped gift so you can attach a gift tag later. Always ask for boxes when you buy gifts. You can order gift boxes at and you can return what is not damaged. You can also drop off all of your gifts somewhere like Paper Source in Beverly Hills but prepare to pay a premium.

Shipping boxes—If you are not hand-delivering your gifts, then you will need shipping boxes but these you may not have to buy. A little planning ahead makes the difference. Remember last month’s master gift list that indicates who is getting their gift hand-delivered vs. shipped? Here is where that column is handy. First determine how you are shipping to each recipient and the size of the box you need based on the gifts you bought. Shopping online? Often you can re-use the Amazon box the gift came in – just take ALL old shipping and bar code labels off first. Can you use a flat rate box from USPS? Just purchase and you can cram them full for the cost of the box (not the weight like other shippers). If you’re shipping Priority with USPS, those boxes are free. Fed Ex and UPS have free boxes too for certain types of shipping. Make sure you open your shipper accounts, do your labels online so your packages are trackable. Online accounts save your contacts for next year. Then call for pick up!

Tip 1) If you ship Fed Ex ground within your state most recipients will get their boxes the next day (if you ship before Dec. 1). Don’t pay for next day shipping before then.

Tip 2) After Dec. 22nd even if you pay for next day delivery it won’t arrive then, no matter what they promise and you pay for.

Tip 3) I have found Fed Ex to be much more reliable than any other shipper out there and you can reach live customer service operators.

(More on shipping in next month’s blog.)

Green options—Another option for gift boxes is putting a gift in a re-usable container like a lidded basket or holiday tin. Then you only have to tie a beautiful ribbon and tag around the container. Gift bags with drawstrings can be nice as well. Quality wine bags with ribbon are simple, elegant and a quick go-to gift. An envelope with a bow can contain a gift card with minimal packaging.

Your Wrapping Tools—Ribbon, gift wrap, gift tags, packing material, tape and scissors are necessary tools. If you are not good at wrapping, hire someone who is. (Hint: Bubbly wrap or loosely wrapped packages are considered badly done.) Give them a workspace and their own tools. Don’t by less materials hoping to save money. There’s nothing worst than not having everything you need and having to run out to finish a shipment. Just use it next year or share your excess. My favorite resources are:

Tip 1) Forget the pop-up hand tape contraption-when you’re wrapping quantity it just gets in the way. Use a tape dispenser that is weighted so you can grab and cut tape with one hand.

Tip 2) Real two-sided satin ribbon is so much easier to work with, so much prettier and cheap when you buy in bulk.

Tip 3) Only buy ribbon in two sizes, 1” (for smaller packages) and 3” (for bigger packages).

Tip 4) Buying plain red, gold or silver paper with green, blue and red ribbon has you covered for Christmas or Hanukkah gifts. Don’t bother with patterned papers (considered tacky for adult gifts).

Tip 5) Tie on Tags vs. Stickers—Stickers are tacky and your employer’s high-end friends know this. Tie on tags are best and yes, a real pain too!

Tip 6) Remember to use the word “Holiday” vs. “Christmas” on tags and cards to be respectful of everyone’s traditions.

Tip 7) Keep track of the gifts you’ve bought and keep them secure. I always had a designated closet or office that locked at holiday time. The cleaning crew or others were not allowed in. Otherwise, things have a habit of growing legs and walking off. And for some reason, no one will fess up to seeing an iPod prancing out of the door.

Tip 8) Keep your receipts in one place. Even if it is a Ziploc, keep all holiday receipts together. People will come to you and want to return/exchange their gift, (especially if you’re buying from the boss and they don’t want him/her to know.) Give it to them but keep a copy of the receipt for your employer’s tax accountant with the recipient’s name on it and mark business or personal. You don’t want them thinking you bought yourself a new iPod!

Tip 9) Buy Red, Silver & Gold Sharpies for the holidays. They come in very handy for tags and gift envelopes.

Looking Ahead at December—

Shipping off your gifts—plan to do this no later than the second week in December. Prioritize all perishable gifts to go first since people leave to visit relatives a week before the holidays and offices close.

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My related blogs—

Better To Give Then to Receive—Gift Buying Tips

Last Minute Giving on a Beer Budget


Countdown To The Holidays-How to Minimize Stress Series

November 1, 2014 § Leave a comment

October—It’s all about the lists

This month it is all about the lists and getting answers you need to make the Holidays happen. The foundation of any good Holiday season is an accurate list. I’ve listed what has helped me for 25+ years, things you may want to consider to have your lists rocking and rolling. And yes, you don’t need one more thing to do, but if your lists are clear it’s a lot easier to get extra help and delegate what needs to be done.

Gift Master Database-Assistants Holy Grail

Screen Shot 2014-10-31 at 4.50.25 PM

What comprises the list categories? The key is to make this a quick reference for years to come. Your list should contain:

  • First and last names
  • Category for relationship (vendor, family, staff)
  • Gift decision (or card only) this year/last year
  • Who is buying the gift (you or your boss)?
  • Gift card message
  • Shipping or hand-delivery?

Remember, you need these answers for every gift you give.

Who’s on the list?

  • Family/Significant Others– (This year–did someone have a baby, get married, die or divorce?) Make all changes before giving the list to your employer
  • Work Related Folks—Make sure you have a crew list or project lists of those who your boss worked with this year and ask, “Who do you want to add from that list?”
  • House Staff—Housekeeper, Butler, Nanny, Driver, Chef, etc, etc…
  • Vendors (home and office) make sure to give your boss a list of those who regularly service their home and office—mail person, water delivery, gardeners, handyman, pond, pool man, newspaper guy, etc. These are people that are not staff, but are outside vendors who service the house/office regularly. Will they get a gift card? A check? A greeting card? What amount? Does your boss lunch at regular restaurants? Does the Maître ‘D get a holiday tip? Your go-to Starbucks employee? You might get a little crazy here but a comprehensive list is best and your boss can always delete them. Hopefully, they will appreciate you bringing people to their attention since this is the time of the year the real ballers show their gratitude for the special service they’ve been getting all year, and want to continue to get.
  • Offices—Don’t forget the office personnel where your boss frequents: Doctors, lawyers, PR firms, accountants, and the assistants you deal with regularly? A group gift sends a message that is appreciated all year long.

Greeting Card Master Database

It is usually safe to assume if they are on your boss’ gift list, they will want to send them a card. My clients usually have two card lists—1) Business holiday card and, 2) Personal holiday card. Make sure you are clear on which one for each person on their list.

But wait, there’s more!

  • Make sure the addresses are correct and current
  • How formal does your boss go? Mr. & Mrs. or just first and last names? (If first names, find out significant other’s proper names now).
  • Determine: card design; greeting sentiment; hand-signing or printing?
  • Who is printing the card? What is their turnaround time? (Card should go out the 1st week of December.)
  • Is it a photo card? Make the appt. for the photos shoot now.
  • Buy the stamps and laser labels and possibly get the envelopes early from the printer so you can start addressing them. Make sure you’re clear on the return address you’re using on the envelopes-home or office?
  • And if you’re using Paperless Post or similar online service, get those emails now.

And stay tuned for November’s blog next week—It’s all about the gifts!

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