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211 Shopping Days Until Christmas: Are You Ready?

211 Shopping Days Until Christmas: Are You Ready?

Gift

    We haven’t even crossed the six month mark for Christmas this year, but here I am, talking about gift-giving. I haven’t lost it, though: along with Christmas, I’ve already got my gift giving for Father’s Day, various birthdays and a few weddings planned for. How many hours each year do you spend shuffling around for birthday presents or holiday gifts? What about cards? Or even trying to remember to call someone on their happy day? How much time — and money — do you think you can save with just a few lifehacks?

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    But why worry about it in May or June? Well, I don’t know about you, but I can’t bear the thought of even thinking about tinsel in January, or even February. I’ve got no excuse for not getting my plans out of the way in March or April, but I always seem to wind up getting this whole gift giving thing out of the way around Memorial Day — mostly because I’ll take a look through the sales papers and start thinking about who wants what for birthdays and holidays. And if I’m going to sit down and plan Christmas in May, why not get the next year’s worth of gift-giving entirely out of the way?

    18 Days Until Father’s Day

    The biggest change you can make is deciding who you’re planning to give gifts to this year, and how much you plan to spend. Oh, and for what holidays?

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    1. Start with family: Who’s birthdays are you spending what on? Are you doing a family gift exchange for Christmas or Hanukkah? Is anyone getting married or having a baby?
    2. Next up are friends: Do you really want to send a Christmas card to that kid you haven’t seen since 2nd grade? Do any of your friends have kids you plan to give gifts to, as well?
    3. Don’t forget work: Do members of your office ask you to contribute for birthdays and such? Or do you run your own business and plan to send out holiday cards to your business contacts?
    4. And what about your significant other? Do you celebrate an anniversary? Or Valentine’s Day?

    Don’t be surprised if you find yourself adding to this list over the course of the next year, and changing it year after year. I’ll guarantee, though, you’ll be surprised by how many gifts you buy each year. And you may decide it’s time to cut down — especially if you’ve been trying to budget. There’s no shame in cutting a few people off your list — or giving them something smaller than you might have in the past.

    Once you’ve got a list of who you routinely give gifts to, you can start budgeting how much time and money you spend on the effort. I’ve got everything in a spreadsheet with the following columns:

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    • Name of the Recipient
    • Date
    • Price Range
    • Gift Ideas

    It’s a pretty simple system. For date, I use whenever I plan to give the gift — December 25 or a birthday, for example — and I generally keep my spreadsheet sorted so that I can see what’s coming up. I tend to highlight names after I buy a gift, and then change the color of the highlight once I’ve actually given the gift.

    263 Days Until Valentine’s Day

    But what’s so great about this system? For one thing, I save plenty of money because I can buy gifts far in advance — I’ve already started shopping for the holidays. I also can spread out my buying to when it’s more convenient to my budget, and I can hit up sales throughout the year. And for gifts that are time intensive, such as knitting someone a sweater, I have a much better idea of when I need to start — especially if I have several gifts I need to give at the same time.

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    Since I’ve started this gift-giving system, I’ve managed to avoid missing a number of birthdays, as well. I check my list at the beginning of the month and make plans on what I’m mailing off based on that list. I’ve also been better equipped for taking care of time sensitive gifts — like taking a friend out to dinner. Not only do I know to make room for that meal in the month’s budget, but I remember to make reservations as well.

    An Unknown Number of Days Until Your Grandmother’s Birthday

    There are a couple of spots where your plan for the year’s gifts must be flexible. A friend might get married on very short notice or your cousin might have a baby that you didn’t take into account on your spreadsheet. Personally, I’ve made a practice of keeping a few gifts on hand that may not be perfectly personal but will still let someone know that I was thinking of them on their happy day. I also keep a variety of cards on hand for the same purpose — and I routinely make my own, as well.

    Another problem I’ve run into is with books, movies and games: not only do I run a risk of someone receiving whatever I plan to get them long before I hand over a nicely wrapped present, but there’s the fact that buying such a gift and then mailing it off can be far more expensive then letting Amazon do the hard work. For friends and family that I want to give books to, I try not to buy their gifts quite so far in advance anymore. Instead, I make a note on my spreadsheet to order it when their birthday or other event is getting closer.

    Overall, though, planning out my gift-giving is one of the greatest lifehacks I’ve managed to implement in my way of doing things: I’ve saved a pretty significant sum of money in the past couple of years and worried a whole lot less about snubbing Grandma by forgetting to get her a gift — or even give her a phone call.

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    Last Updated on November 18, 2020

    15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It)

    15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It)

    It’s okay, you can finally admit it. It’s been two months since you’ve seen the inside of the gym. Getting sick, family crisis, overtime at work and school papers that needed to get finished all kept you for exercising. Now, the question is: how do you start again?
    Once you have an exercise habit, it becomes automatic. You just go to the gym, there is no force involved. But after a month, two months or possibly a year off, it can be hard to get started again. Here are some tips to climb back on that treadmill after you’ve fallen off.

    1. Don’t Break the Habit – The easiest way to keep things going is simply not to stop. Avoid long breaks in exercising or rebuilding the habit will take some effort. This may be advice a little too late for some people. But if you have an exercise habit going, don’t drop it at the first sign of trouble.
    2. Reward Showing Up – Woody Allen once said that, “Half of life is showing up.” I’d argue that 90% of making a habit is just making the effort to get there. You can worry about your weight, amount of laps you run or the amount you can bench press later.
    3. Commit for Thirty Days – Make a commitment to go every day (even just for 20 minutes) for one month. This will solidify the exercise habit. By making a commitment you also take pressure off yourself in the first weeks back of deciding whether to go.
    4. Make it Fun – If you don’t enjoy yourself at the gym, it is going to be hard to keep it a habit. There are thousands of ways you can move your body and exercise, so don’t give up if you’ve decided lifting weights or doing crunches isn’t for you. Many large fitness centers will offer a range of programs that can suit your tastes.
    5. Schedule During Quiet Hours – Don’t put exercise time in a place where it will easily be pushed aside by something more important. Right after work or first thing in the morning are often good places to put it. Lunch-hour workouts might be too easy to skip if work demands start mounting.
    6. Get a Buddy – Grab a friend to join you. Having a social aspect to exercising can boost your commitment to the exercise habit.
    7. X Your Calendar – One person I know has the habit of drawing a red “X” through any day on the calendar he goes to the gym. The benefit of this is it quickly shows how long it has been since you’ve gone to the gym. Keeping a steady amount of X’s on your calendar is an easy way to motivate yourself.
    8. Enjoyment Before Effort – After you finish any work out, ask yourself what parts you enjoyed and what parts you did not. As a rule, the enjoyable aspects of your workout will get done and the rest will be avoided. By focusing on how you can make workouts more enjoyable, you can make sure you want to keep going to the gym.
    9. Create a Ritual – Your workout routine should become so ingrained that it becomes a ritual. This means that the time of day, place or cue automatically starts you towards grabbing your bag and heading out. If your workout times are completely random, it will be harder to benefit from the momentum of a ritual.
    10. Stress Relief – What do you do when your stressed? Chances are it isn’t running. But exercise can be a great way to relieve stress, releasing endorphin which will improve your mood. The next time you feel stressed or tired, try doing an exercise you enjoy. When stress relief is linked to exercise, it is easy to regain the habit even after a leave of absence.
    11. Measure Fitness – Weight isn’t always the best number to track. Increase in muscle can offset decreases in fat so the scale doesn’t change even if your body is. But fitness improvements are a great way to stay motivated. Recording simple numbers such as the number of push-ups, sit-ups or speed you can run can help you see that the exercise is making you stronger and faster.
    12. Habits First, Equipment Later – Fancy equipment doesn’t create a habit for exercise. Despite this, some people still believe that buying a thousand dollar machine will make up for their inactivity. It won’t. Start building the exercise habit first, only afterwards should you worry about having a personal gym.
    13. Isolate Your Weakness – If falling off the exercise wagon is a common occurrence for you, find out why. Do you not enjoy exercising? Is it a lack of time? Is it feeling self-conscious at the gym? Is it a lack of fitness know-how? As soon as you can isolate your weakness, you can make steps to improve the situation.
    14. Start Small – Trying to run fifteen miles your first workout isn’t a good way to build a habit. Work below your capacity for the first few weeks to build the habit. Otherwise you might scare yourself off after a brutal workout.
    15. Go for Yourself, Not to Impress – Going to the gym with the only goal of looking great is like starting a business with only the goal to make money. The effort can’t justify the results. But if you go to the gym to push yourself, gain energy and have a good time, then you can keep going even when results are slow.

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