Sunday, November 30, 2014

Christmas Countdown to an Organized Christmas - Day 5 - Start a Master Gift List

Article and Photo Courtesy of Organized Christmas

Ready to "Think Christmas"? For most of us, those thoughts are likely turn to gifts and giving!

Who doesn't love the holiday custom of giving and receiving gifts? But holiday gift-giving also comes with a sting in the tail. Much as we love the custom, we also find it stressful!

A recent poll at our site showed that gift-buying topped our list as the "biggest holiday organization challenge". Whether it's anxiety over choosing the right gift, worries about staying within budget, or simple resentment of the time required to find, buy, wrap and deliver holiday gifts, the downside of holiday giving is enough to bring out the Scrooge in any of us.

How to speed the chore--and keep the joy in the giving? Today, we'll begin a Master Gift List: a decision-making platform for holiday gifts and giving.

To Do Today

Begin a Master Gift List

More than a simple “name-to-present” checklist, a Master Gift List is a power-giver’s tool of choice. As today's reading assignment explains, it’s the place to record gift suggestions, track shopping, wrapping and shipping, and track our giving from year to year.

The Master Gift List will be the start point for Gifts and Giving Week (additional printable forms), so the time to begin one is now! Print the Master Gift List form to start your Master Gift List today.

Place the Master Gift List directly behind the Gifts divider in your Christmas planner for easy reference. The two of you are going to become very good friends in the weeks to come!

Every family has one: a gift-giver of extraordinary flair and creativity. Year after year, this paragon finds just the right gift, large or small, for every friend and relation, and all without breaking the bank.

Her “just because” offerings are tiny jewels, she’s hip to the latest teen trends—and she never, ever hears the double-barbed response, “Oh, you shouldn't have--you really shouldn’t have!”

What’s her secret? A master gift list.

More than a simple “name-to-present” checklist, a Master Gift List is a power-giver’s tool of choice. It’s the place to record gift suggestions, track shopping, wrapping and shipping, and find inspiration for tough-to-buy-for loved ones. Started well before the holiday season, it'll buy precious time during December's busy days.

How will you use a Master Gift List?

Grab gift ideas
If there’s a single trait that sets apart a power gift-giver, it’s attentiveness. Inspired gift ideas don’t just alight from thin air, but spring from close attention to the needs and preferences of loved ones. That’s why the Master Gift List’s first function is to record fleeting gift ideas as they occur to you—whatever the time of year.

Here's an example. Say you visit your brother and sister-in-law for a family cookout. You notice that Sis is trying to toss the salad with a mismatched pair of mixing spoons. Gift idea!

In the corner, a teen nephew hunches in full thrall to a hand-held video game. Ditto!

When you return home, make a quick note that “salad servers” might be a welcome gift for the family, and write “video game magazine subscription” next to your nephew’s name.

Entrusted to the Master Gift List, those summer observations will make shopping simple come December.

Take charge of shopping
Rely on the Shopping Mall Method of gift buying, and your budget will rise like a helium-filled balloon. Without the guidance of a good gift list, you’ll drift from store to store, buying what the eye sees, not what the family needs. At day’s end, you’re likely to have multiple gifts for some recipients, nothing for others, and a flattened wallet to match your flattened feet.

Shop with a list, and take control! Rely on the Master Gift List as you shop to resist retailing blandishments and put purchasing power back in your hands. Keep a running tally of gift purchases to protect the budget against seasonal temptation, and use the list to organize holiday shopping trips efficiently. Armed with a Master Gift List, you’ll save money, time and energy at a busy time of year.

The Master Gift List. Don’t leave home without it!

Track gift-giving progress
Buying is only the beginning; holiday gifts must still be wrapped, packed and shipped. Who needs the stress of standing in line for overnight shipping on Christmas Eve?

Add simple checkboxes for “bought”, “wrapped”, and “delivered”; they’ll let you see at a glance where you lie along the trail to the Christmas tree. Check the list regularly, and you’ll have a visual reminder to get gifts delivered in a timely way.

Lessons of Christmas Past
Finally, there’s no such thing as a “finished” gift list. Even at season’s end, the Master Gift List remains a treasure trove for Christmases to come.

Tuck the completed Master Gift List away behind the Christmas Past divider in your Christmas planner.

As you make next year’s lists, refer to it to avoid duplicating gifts, to recall gift ideas and to prevent violating the “unwritten rules” by veering from modest to extravagant gifts from year to year.

Gather gift-giving data with a Gift Ideas Planner 

Making the list and checking it twice (with an eye to the budget!) is a job for the Master Gift List, but where do you go to remember a loved one's favorite color, clothing size, or preferred video game platform? Enter and print the Gift Ideas Planner!

Partner to the Master Gift List, a Gift Ideas Planner is the secret of those oh-so-marvelous gift-givers. Tracking information about the likes, preferences and clothing sizes of gift recipients, a Gift Ideas Planner captures--and keeps!--the small details that can turn a gift from delightful to dazzling!

Today, begin to list data for gift recipients on a gift ideas planner page. Reminding yourself of favorite colors, sizes and interests will help you cut through the shopping clamor and zero in on the perfect gift ... fast!

Today's Recipe

Almond Chocolate Toffee Recipe

To prepare this recipe for shipment, pour hot candy into a buttered disposable foil pan. Follow with chocolate chips as the recipe directs and smooth melted chips to form chocolate coating.

When cool, carefully fold down pan edges, then wrap in a zipper freezer storage bag. Wrap pan tightly without breaking to mail candy. Yum!

1⁄2 cupalmonds, slivered
1 cupbutter, unsalted
1 cupsugar, granulated
3 tablespoonswater
1 tablespooncorn syrup, light
1 cupchocolate chips
Line a 13-by-9 inch baking pan with foil, extending foil over the edges. Sprinkle almonds on the bottom of pan. Butter sides of a heavy 2-quart saucepan.

Melt butter over low heat. Stir in sugar, water and corn syrup. Cook and stir over medium-high heat to boiling.

Clip candy thermometer to side of pan. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until thermometer reads 290 degrees (soft-crack stage). Watch carefully after mixture reaches 280 degrees.

Remove pan from heat. Pour mixture into prepared pan. Let stand 2 or 3 minutes, until surface is firm. Sprinkle with chocolate pieces. Let stand 1 to 2 minutes, until chocolate chips are glossy and soft.

Spread evenly over candy. Chill until firm. Lift candy out of pan with foil; break into pieces. Makes about 1 1/2 pounds.

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