Ever heard of a gifts and holiday journal? In case you haven't, I'm telling you, you'll benefit so much from it, you'll wish you'd thought about it sooner.
How Keeping A Gifts and Holiday Journal Saves Me Time, Money, and Stress
Now, let's see. Did I give Grandma a blue hat and scarf last year, or was it the gray set? I'd love to get her some gloves to match, if only I could remember the color. And I gave Susie's piano teacher a gift certificate to a coffee shop she liked – she mentioned it was perfect because she didn't like the other place – but which one was it? And I admired this toy for nephew Brian's last birthday, but I can't remember if I actually got if for him, or if I decided on something else.
Or wait – maybe the hat and scarf set went to my sister-in-law instead. Did Grandma and I even exchange gifts last holiday season? I wonder what she gave me.
Should I send out former neighbors a Christmas card? Did they send us one last year?
Sound familiar? If it does, you need a journal for gifts and holidays! The truth is, we all do. With everyone's hectic schedules and overflowing lives, it's increasingly challenging to remember all the gifts and cards that you and your household exchanged with others over the years. You want to show you care by giving just the right gift to every single event, but it can be tough to keep it all sorted out.
It's easy to get started on your own gift journal, and you will be glad you did.
Here's How to Get Your Journal Started:
First of all, there are no hard-and-fast rules. You can customize your gift journal to include whatever holidays and details you want, in whatever order and format you want. Spend a few minutes thinking about how you are most likely to use the journal. It's helpful to picture the end result – imagine yourself retrieving useful information out of your journal, and keep that in mind as you go through the steps to set it up.
First, buy a journal.
You can use a beautiful hardbound book with gold-edged pages and a built-in silk bookmark, or you can use a plain spiral-bound notebook that you bought for 33 cents at a big box retailer's back-to-school blowout – or anything in between. It can be any size, large or tiny, thick or thin. But since you will want to keep it as a reference over a period of at least a few years, you will want to have 70 pages or so, and more if the book is small. You can decorate it, or leave it plain. You can even use loose-leaf paper in a binder, if that works better for you.
I am an aficionado of all kinds of paper products, but my favorite type to use for record-keeping are the hard-bound composition-style notebooks that come in a wide variety of colors and prints.
Get your own here.
Decide where to store your journal.
Next, decide on a place to store the journal where it will serve you best. Does it need to be in a prominent place on the coffee table in the family room where you remember to use it, or are you better off tucking it away in a dresser drawer? You might want to keep it on your desk at work, in your car, in your purse or briefcase, or in a kitchen cabinet. Keep it in the spot where you are most likely to jot down entries before you forget them, and don't be afraid to move it around throughout the year or as needed.
Part of the decision of where to keep it will be affected by who will use it. Will it be for your eyes only, so you can write down reminders of a secret something for your spouse going on sale next week, or a list of toys you bought for the kids so far that you want to use for reference as you round out your shopping? If that's the case, hide it.
I tuck mine into a file drawer in my study. My husband never looks in there, but I take care to use vague working when writing down items for him, just in case he happens to stumble upon it.
Decide on the format.
The next step is to decide on a format. Do you prefer lists, charts, or narratives? If you are a list-maker you can plan to write out your holiday gifts and cards in the form of a single column of entries, checking them off when they are done, wrapped, or given.
Fans of charts or spreadsheets might want to set up a way to add information about gifts or recipients in columns. You can divide the page into multiple corresponding columns of recipients, gifts, when and where they are acquired, when given, and any other information that seems pertinent.
A plain old narrative style works well, too. Picture a dairy-style entry that goes something like this:
November 23. Got Peter and Janet's gift shipped off to them. Started wrapping stocking stuffers for Andrew. Found great online source for the science kit Holly asked for. Made cookies for office party ahead of time, put them in freezer.
Consider the parameters of your journal. Will you include where you bought the item, and how much you paid, when you got it, and when you gave it? You can, if those details are one which will be useful to you for future reference.
Get you gift journal set up and ready to use. Divide it up in a way that works for your life. By year, by holiday, or maybe by gifts given and received subdivided into pages of “For Holidays”, and “Throughout the year”. List the people you normally give to in alphabetical order, or order of importance – your immediate family first, followed by other dear ones, then acquaintances and associates and other connections – or even chronologically according to when you bought their gifts. However you set it u, make it useful.
Buy stick on tabs here.
You can use little stick-on tabs or sticky-notes to delineate one segment from another. I use rubber bands or paper clips to set apart bygone sections of my journal so that I can easily open the book to my most current entries, which allows me to still access the older information when I need to but it doesn't get in the way when I don't.
I find it useful to list gifts given to me as well as those I gave to others. Having them written down helps me to remember to send thank-you notes. And in the case of exchanging gifts with like-minded loved ones, I can be sure I don't give something too similar in return. Also, if I plan to do any re-gifting, it is extra important to know who gave it to me originally.
Optional information you can add into your journal:
- A month-by-month list of birthdays and anniversaries and other special dates for people in your life.
- A holiday card list, both sent and received.
- A calendar or description of holiday events and celebrations – birthday parties, weddings, Bar Mitzvahs, housewarmings, baptisms, even celebrations of life.
- Photos and mementos.
One more thing to consider…
Even though you are creating this journal for your own use as a tool for organization and record-keeping, you can easily see how it will become much more than that. You will doubtlessly find yourself looking back over entries in the book and smiling at how much little Johnny loved that toy you gave him that year, or what fun it was to receive that set of hand-written recipe cards from Great Aunt Helen.
In addition to creating a memory book for yourself, just think of its value for posterity. Imagine your great-grandchildren going through it many decades from now, delighting in the memorials of love recorded in the pages of your gift journal.
Creating and using a gift journal of your own can be a fun and rewarding endeavor, and it is sure to help alleviate some of the stress that comes with holidays and gifting. Start one today, and enjoy it from this year forward, and watch how keeping your journal unfolds into its own treasured holiday tradition.
What do you think of keeping a holiday journal? Will the method help save you time, money, and stress? Won't it be nice to look back and remember all the wonderful gifts you gave and been given? Leave your comments below.
Need some gift wrapping ideas to make gift giving more special? Then get some ideas from this video from DaveHax:
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