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How to Avoid Shopping Hassles This Holiday Season

A makeup kit; a plate of snowflake-shaped cookies; two book subscription kits
Ipsy/Nesting with Grace/Coffee and a Classic

With supply chains and production facilities worldwide still struggling to rebound from the pandemic, what does this mean for holiday shopping? Well, it means it’s probably time to get creative with your gifts, and we’ve got plenty of suggestions to help you navigate the holiday shopping season with as little stress as possible.

Production across many industries has been affected by materials shortages, shipping delays, and other supply chain issues. From chip shortages in the tech sector to paper and shipping issues putting book publishers behind, it’s going to be a trickier-than-usual year for getting the items on those holiday wish lists.

Fortunately, there’s still plenty of time and alternatives to get thoughtful gifts for all your friends and family! Let’s look at some ways you can ensure this holiday season is just as joyful as ever.

Preorder Whenever Possible

Preordering is a good idea, especially if you already have a particular item in mind. This year, it’s smarter than ever to preorder, especially if the item is coming from an industry that’s known to have supply issues. Whether there’s a book coming out that you know your best friend would like, or a new gadget that’s perfect for your spouse, preorder it!

It’s one way to reserve an item and (hopefully) ensure that you get one, particularly if the initial production run will be smaller than usual. Preordering is a smart way to hedge your bets and allow as much time as possible to receive your item.

Have a Backup Plan for Tech Gifts

Tech gifts, from phones and computers to more niche gadgets, are always popular for the holidays. However, this year, due to the shortage of semiconductors, tech-based items from cars to computers are in short supply.

This doesn’t mean it’s time to completely discard the possibility of giving tech gifts this year. To be on the safe side, though, it’s worth keeping in mind the possibility of backorders and slow production. You might want to have a backup plan that isn’t quite as challenging to get.

The worst-case scenario is you’ll end up with an extra gift, but that’s better than no gift if that highly anticipated new gadget doesn’t make it in time.

Go Homemade

A tray of snowflake-shaped sugar cookies; a half-filled glass jar of fudge sauce
Nesting with Grace/The Pioneer Woman

Homemade gifts aren’t just an activity for kids. You can save a lot of the hassles of shopping (and shipping) by creating your own gifts for your loved ones. You don’t have to be an expert crafter to make something special—just focus on making something you know your recipient will love and use.

Leaning more on consumable gifts, rather than the super crafty is a good idea, unless you have a particular skill in which your recipient has clearly expressed interest. Consumables usually make for a more satisfying experience.

Think about it: Would you rather have a box of your favorite cookies or a handmade ceramic pot you have to display every time your friend stops by?

One increasingly popular trend is gifting homemade ingredients or goods, like a jar of fudge sauce or a bottle of home-brewed vanilla extract. It’s a great way to give a long-lasting but consumable gift.

Something like The Pioneer Woman‘s hot fudge sauce might be ideal. It’s decadent and easy to cook and put in a jar as a gift for all the chocolate lovers in your life!

If you prefer a more “interactive” gift, a recipe “jar” in which you layer ingredients is an idea. Or, how about a cookie kit featuring a recipe, a package of ingredients, cookie cutters, and some frosting plus toppings? These make perfect family gifts, as they allow your recipients to have fun customizing and making the recipe together.

If you go this route, start with a basic, but delicious, recipe, like this sugar cookie recipe. The secret is the extract: either pure vanilla or almond. It’s what gives give the cookies that sweet, classic flavor rather than just a bland sweetness. Add an indulgent cream cheese frosting (or your frosting of choice) for the perfect holiday gift and treat!

Give the Gift of an Experience

A young couple and a little girl serving an elderly couple a candlelight dinner.

Another option is to skip the “products” category altogether and choose experience-based gifts instead. For instance, tickets to an event, like a basketball game, the theater, a concert, or a holiday lights display are all fantastic options.

Instead of yet another item cluttering up their shelves, they can enjoy an experience and create some memories. You might even decide to buy enough tickets to treat your entire friend group or family (and yourself) to a good time doing something together that you all love.

You also can’t go wrong with service gifts. After all, the whole idea of giving a gift is about choosing something your recipient would want and like the most. And sometimes, it’s not a physical item.

It might sound cheesy, but occasionally, giving of yourself and your time really is the best present! For example, you could create a “voucher” to cook someone a deluxe dinner whenever they want, or offer babysitting services to the busy parents in your life.

If it’s in your wheelhouse, you could also offer to help out a relative with home repairs, redecorating, or cleaning. It might not be as glamorous as unwrapping a shiny present, but, in many cases, service gifts are even more appreciated.

Give a Subscription

A makeup kit against a pink background; flatlays of book subscription kits
Ipsy/Coffee and a Classic

Similar to an “experience” gift, a subscription to something they love is, literally, the gift that keeps on giving. You can even combine the two and give the gift of an experience subscription, such as a membership to a museum, park or garden, theater, or the like. A subscription is something your recipient will use throughout the year, making for a truly long-lasting present.

You also might consider a subscription box. At this point, the subscription box industry has grown enormously. There are subscriptions for pretty much every interest, age group, or hobby you can think of, including Book of the month, tea of the month, plant of the month, game of the month … you get the idea.

For book lovers, Coffee and a Classic is a cool gift. You can choose fiction, nonfiction, or children’s literature. Each monthly box includes a hot beverage (coffee, tea, or hot chocolate) your loved one can enjoy with his or her new book. The boxes also include fun bonuses, whether it’s just a couple of treats (the Starter pack) or several items (the Standard subscription).

If you have a beauty fanatic in your life, something like an Ipsy subscription could make a perfect gift. This beloved beauty box allows recipients to get a wide variety of beauty products, customized to perfectly suit their needs and preferences. With three different subscription levels, you can easily choose the right option for anyone on your gift list.

Buy Local and Independent

Instead of relying heavily on well-known brands, big-box stores, and international companies, why not take the opportunity to shop local this year. Small, independent retailers often carry unique items you can’t get anywhere else at very reasonable prices.

There’s usually a degree of creativity and originality in these types of gifts that are sorely lacking in the big-name brand items. It’ll also make your recipient feel special, as he or she won’t just be one of a million receiving the same trendy item this year.

If you can’t find what you’re looking for at a brick-and-mortar local store, you can check online, too. Many indie retailers have stepped up their online ordering game during the pandemic, which is great news if you’re looking for something unique. You might also check sites like Etsy, where you can search for highly specific gifts from independent retailers.

Shop Secondhand

 A woman looking at a lighting fixture at a flea market.

Embrace your inner thrifter this year. Secondhand doesn’t have to mean cheap junk. In fact, you’d be surprised what you can find at thrift shops, resale stores, antique malls, craft fairs, flea markets, and similar places. You very well might stumble across something truly unique and sentimental.

Don’t be afraid to look for vintage items, especially if you know someone collects something. Thrift shopping is a great opportunity to really gift something meaningful, like a vintage copy of someone’s favorite book, album, or the like.

Hopefully, these tips have given you plenty of ideas about where to look for gifts this year, despite all the shortages and supply issues. And hey, if you are the crafty type, you can absolutely get started now and have Christmas in the can before Halloween!

Amanda Prahl Amanda Prahl
Amanda Prahl is a freelance contributor to LifeSavvy. She has an MFA in dramatic writing, a BA in literature, and is a former faculty associate focusing on writing craft and history. Her articles have appeared on HowlRound, Slate, Bustle, BroadwayWorld, and ThoughtCo, among others. Read Full Bio »
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