Richard L. is a Canadian lifestyle blogger well too familiar with the joys of luxury shopping and the throes of choice (he keeps it practical too!). Richard regularly contributes to special occasions magazines (print and digital) in the U.S. and Canada, and also writes for a few well-known apparel brands.
While Christmas is the one special occasion of the year that family and friends try hard to be together for, long distances often make it unfeasible. The exchanging of gifts, instead of being done in each other’s company, has to be done by mail. With rising shipping costs both within the country and internationally sending large, heavy items through the mail can be expensive. Fortunately there are some great gift ideas and tips that will make long distance Xmas gift buying as fun and stress-free as it should be.
There are two ways to ensure you are able to give your friends and family living long distances away the gifts you want them to have. The first is to shop for them locally or online and then arrange to have them shipped. The drawback to this is that some countries on the opposite side of the world have very early shutoff dates for international mailing that guarantees delivery by Christmas. Unless you are particularly well organized you may miss deadlines.
The other drawback to shipping Xmas gifts to long distance relatives and friends is that the cost can mount quickly if your gifts are particularly large, heavy or breakable. If you would rather not package items to ship yourself there are stores that will do this for you for a price. In the case of breakables this may be the preferred option provided the store doing the packaging provides a money back guarantee should breakage occur.
To avoid costly shipping, deadlines or potential damage to packages in transit you can do your shopping online and have items either sent directly to your relatives and friends or to a nearby physical store for them to pick up. Naturally you will want to choose online stores that are willing to ship internationally or alternatively choose online stores that are based in the country your relative or friend is living in. The cheaper option most often is to purchase from a store in your gift recipient’s country.
Even when sending to relatives and friends across the country you can save money and time by shopping online at stores that have physical stores nearby where your gift recipients live. In this way you are limited only by the items available in those online stores but can be assured that gifts will be received in time. The added advantage of this is that it is probable that the stores in question have a return policy that allows your gift recipient to exchange the gift in-store rather than online, should the item not be right. Just ensure to make an arrangement when purchasing that allows the gift recipient to do so.
If shipping nationally or internationally from home you should keep the size and weight of your gifts to a reasonable minimum. Shipping services tend to charge by both size and weight. Where it pays to use a larger box than the item calls for is in the case of very small items that when packaged might get misplaced in transit. Provided the package is of a significant size to not slip behind or under something you should feel reassured that it will arrive as planned.
Buy insurance for expensive items. While it may seem like an unnecessary precaution to take, given the huge increase in packages being moved across the country and around the world, it is easy for things to get misplaced or damaged in transit. Insurance will not replace the lost or broken item but will reduce the financial loss to you. Check with your shipping agent to find out if the insurance they offer includes the cost of the shipping as well as the contents of the package, as some do not cover shipping costs. Become familiar with the conditions of the insurance so that should a need for a claim arise you will be able to go through the steps quickly and efficiently. Advise your gift recipient that should the item arrive damaged it is likely that the shipping agent will want extensive photographs of both the item and the packaging. Though you hope your gifts will arrive on time and in intact insurance will provide you with a little bit of peace of mind, and can be had for a nominal charge in most cases.
What you choose to send as a long distance Christmas gift will be cherished just as much as if you had handed it to your family member or friend yourself. It will show clearly that you put a lot of thought into choosing something special just for that person, and has the added value of them knowing you had to ship it or arrange to have it shipped to them. He or she will be every bit as appreciative of receiving your gift because it was sent with lots of love and good wishes for the holiday season.
Some people firmly believe that a house is not a home without flowers or potted plants. This is never more so than at Christmas time. With all the splendid flowers available during this special time of the year it is fun and easy to add some floral touches to your Christmas décor and dinner table. Whether it be a simple centerpiece for your Christmas dinner table or an elaborate arrangement for the front entranceway flowers add a magical touch of beauty to Christmas.
The following ideas will help you come up with your own stunning flower arrangements to grace your home this Christmas time:
1. When creating centerpieces for the Christmas dinner table be sure that you either place them strategically or keep them to a low enough level that they will not inhibit the ability of your guests to talk across the table to one another. To avoid this you can create a long, low profile table centerpiece that incorporates lots of greenery and a few flowers to give it a pop of color. The color of your flowers does not necessarily have to match your table décor but should be at least in complimentary colors to keep the overall look of your table in balance.
2. You have likely heard the saying “Less is more”. In the case of flower arrangements, if you don’t have any particular skills at arranging flowers you may elect to use subtle touches such as single flowers in bud vases along the length of your dining table. These can be fresh blooms or you could choose to use the stunning gold and platinum roses that are available at Eternity Rose. These gorgeous flowers will look equally good laid strategically along the length of the table. Because of the timeless elegance of these gold and platinum dipped roses they can be used for any special occasion or put on display all year round.
3. When planning a large floral display choose the vase carefully. First, it must be large enough to accommodate the number of flowers and amount of foliage/greenery you will create your arrangement from. It should also compliment the colors used in the arrangement, but is not necessary to be a matching color to any of the elements of the display. Be aware that tall vases with small bases can be easily knocked over by small children so if planning a large arrangement for your front entrance be sure to select a vase that will not fall over easily. For single blooms or the gold and platinum dipped roses available from Eternity Rose you might like to consider the elegant and classic styles of bud vases available on their site. Vases do not have to be traditional glass or ceramic containers. If you like a rustic look consider using small metal buckets or preserving jars for small bunches of flowers.
4. Flower arrangements do not have to consist of only flowers. Consider the use of pine cones, small apples, twigs, feathers, small gourds and other additional elements along with a small number of flowers to turn your arrangement into a large, gorgeous display that has lots of fun elements that all come together well. Gold wire is another interesting element in a festive flower arrangement or silver if that is more in line with your décor. Candles can also be used provided they are strategically placed so the flame when lit will not set fire to anything, or wilt blooms.
5. A window box can be a great way to create a display that consists of foliage, flowers, pine cones, candles and a myriad of other decorative touches. It can be placed in the center of a long table to work as a centerpiece or on a sofa table or cabinet where everyone can admire it. The advantage of putting your floral elements within a window box is that you can place things in an arranged manner and not worry about stems showing or anything falling over. For a more decorative touch consider covering the window box in holiday paper, silver or gold foil or paint it to match or compliment your Christmas décor. If you have a green thumb you could grow your own plants in the window box and use them as the basis for your arrangement, adding other elements to the box to complete the arrangement.
Additional tip: While there may be a limited variety of blooms available during the winter months there are still plenty of flowers that will add a wonderful splash of color to your Christmas décor. Let your creativity with flowers and other elements to create a floral display that will be unique. There are no rules dictating the colors or elements you must include so let your imagination soar to create floral pieces that are beautiful and festive this Christmas holiday season.
Christmas time can be an exciting time of year, with carols playing in all the stores and Christmas decorations everywhere, but it can also be extremely stressful and busy. December can be a whirlwind of engagements and trying to deal with last minute work details in order to gain a few days off. It is little wonder that there is very little time left for Christmas gift shopping.
Fortunately there are things you can to reduce the stress of gift shopping and save you time.
Before even beginning your shopping you should take some time and decide what you want to buy everyone. Even if you have no Xmas gift ideas whatsoever try to make a list of several options for each person you are buying for. This will make doing the actual purchasing a lot easier because you will have a list to refer to and not be randomly selecting gifts as you go. This is also particularly helpful if you have a definite budget in mind, and will go a long way towards preventing overspending.
Shopping online can be the easiest and most effective use of your time when getting your Christmas gift shopping completed. It can often, but not always, be a more cost effective option too. Certainly it is physically easier as you aren’t driving around town looking for gifts, trying desperately to find an empty space in the parking lot, fighting crowds of other shoppers who may be looking for the same things as you, and wearing out your shoes and your patience.
Shopping online from the comfort of your own home provides the opportunity to relax and take your time finding the best prices. Planning can be done weeks in advance, and provides you with the ability to take advantage of sales before the prices go up in anticipation of Christmas buying. Some great deals can be had around Thanksgiving and even earlier than that and by stretching the purchasing over several weeks or even months your wallet won’t take a massive hit all at once.
Be sure to comparison shop. While for the most part many items have a recommended retail price you can often find those same items cheaper online than in brick and mortar stores. Many of the large physical stores have online stores as well, and will give you the option of having your items shipped to the nearest physical store for pick up, or for a reasonable shipping charge you can have them delivered to your home. If saving money is a must choose to have the items shipped to the nearest physical store. It will mean you have to go and pick them up but as you will likely be collecting several items at once it will be far less stress than shopping for the items individually in the store.
Some items are available online exclusively and not available in physical stores. The advantage of such items is that shoppers choosing to do their buying in physical stores will not be able to purchase those online-only items. This will in turn give your gifts an element of uniqueness. An example of Xmas gift ideas that are special and unique are the stunning gifts that can only be found at www.eternityrose.cа. Personalized gifts will also require ordering with enough advance notice so that they can be engraved with your special message and shipped in time for Xmas.
While shopping online will save you time, stress and often money it is imperative that you allow sufficient time for the items to arrive. Any delays may force you out into the physical stores to grab last minute gifts. A quicker delivery time may make purchasing at a slightly higher cost from one store more advantageous, particularly in the final week before Christmas. The price of shipping is usually significantly higher in the last few days because the items have to be packed and rushed to you. Hopefully with these tips you will have gotten all your gift shopping done well ahead of the last week and therefore this will not be an issue.
A note to the wise: If having items delivered to your home, keep track of the days and times they are expected to arrive so that you can be on hand to receive them. Theft of packages from front door areas is greatly increased during the holiday shopping season. If a would-be thief notices you are receiving packages regularly they may target your home and steal your packages before you have a chance to realize they have been delivered. If possible install a video camera at your front door so that should something go missing you will have a record of when the item was placed at the door and hopefully an image of the person who removed it without permission and can pass the information along to your local Police.
If you have been around for a year or two (or more) it is very likely that you have heard some so-called facts about Christmas gifts and gift giving. In fact if you have heard them enough times it is possible that you now believe them to be true. Some of those so-called facts are very likely myths however. Let’s look at some of the biggest myths surrounding the art of gift giving at Christmas.
1. Giving to charity at Christmas time will not benefit those who need it most – Regardless of many of the stories that have been circulating for several years about administration costs of non-profit organizations and charities eating up the majority of the money they receive, there are plenty of charities who do indeed use the largest portion of your monetary donation to benefit the needy. If you want to help people in need within your own community find a local church or charity that has a good reputation for putting donated funds to work in ways that make a difference. If you are in doubt about any of the charitable organizations in your area consider buying food and gifting it to a food bank or soup kitchen. Another way you can help is to contact your local church and ask if there are any families in need of assistance. The church can either pass on your donation directly to the families or you can make up food baskets to have distributed.
2. Christmas is all about seeing how many gifts you can get – Contrary to this belief Christmas for many families is the one time of the year that they are able to all gather together in one place and enjoy each other’s company. Yes, gifts are nice, and it is pleasing to receive something nice that another family member has put a lot of thought into but at the end of the day it is likely to be the memories of sitting around the Christmas table and laughing and having fun together that will be of the greatest value.
3. Christmas is too commercial – While it is indeed true that Christmas gift buying season seems to begin earlier and earlier with each passing year there are many people embracing more minimalistic lifestyles and foregoing the commercial aspects of Christmas in favor of experiences. There is more emphasis being put on sharing good times together and less on buying expensive gifts that many can ill afford. Naturally businesses want you to buy and for many the 4th quarter of the year is the most financially rewarding but every individual has the ability to shop within a budget and still manage to find wonderful gifts for every family member.
4. Pets make wonderful Christmas gifts – Sadly, while the heart may be in the right place when a puppy or kitten is given as a Christmas gift, unless the idea has been discussed thoroughly with the child’s parents first and agreed upon, the idea may backfire. Not everyone is willing or ready to open their home to an animal no matter how cute they are. Puppies and kittens both grow into adult animals and require vet checkups that can be costly. Puppies in particular are a lot of work to house train and teach obedience. Animal shelters become inundated with unwanted pets in the New Year, many of them having to be put down due to an inability to re-home them.
5. Everyone can use socks and underwear – There is very little more disappointing than opening a beautifully wrapped package that promises to hold something exciting only to discover that inside are socks and/or underwear. While it is true that these items do need replacing periodically they are probably one of the least exciting Xmas gifts to receive. Children are typically the recipients of such gifts and it is very disappointing to them to receive such practical and mundane items.
6. A man can never have too many ties – While there are some absolutely beautiful ties to buy at Christmas time many men have very little interest in owning more than half a dozen ties. Unless it is a particularly special tie that holds special meaning, such as an alma mater tie, it is best to steer clear of buying ties for Christmas gifts. A tie pin on the other hand is likely to be appreciated if carefully chosen with his tastes in mind.
7. Christmas gifts need to be expensive to have value – The amount of money you choose to spend on gifts is entirely up to you and should not be dictated by someone else’s expectations. Too many people go into credit card debt trying to buy expensive gifts because they have been led to believe that unless it cost a lot of money it has very little value to the recipient. This simply is not true. Many of the best gifts either cost very little or nothing at all. Homemade gifts are some of the best gifts to receive, and the gift of time is precious beyond belief. There are so many craft items that a person can make for gifts, or you can give the gift of your time to your loved one. A special outing, a picnic prepared just for them, babysitting for parents of young children and even something as simple as putting up pictures for grandparents can all be gifts of great value.
Teen girls can be both the easiest to shop for if you go with gift cards to their favorite clothing stores, or the most challenging if you choose to select a gift for them yourself. Teens tend to change their tastes in so many things quickly, following the latest trend, which if you are not up to date with what is going on you could think you have a great gift idea only to find out that it is ‘so yesterday’. One way to get around this problem is to choose one of the following unique Xmas gifts for teen girls that they would not be expecting but will love.
If your teen loves nature and the great outdoors how about buying her a hummingbird feeder? These come in a variety of styles, colors and prices, from simple to elaborate. Be sure to also include a bag of bird seed designed for hummingbirds and other small birds. Your teen can then enjoy providing a place for these gorgeous little birds to come and feed. If she has somewhere outside her bedroom window to place it all the better so she can enjoy this unique Xmas gift!
A bedside or desk lamp is something that can be either standard or completely whacky. Look online for ideas and then check out your local lighting shops for unusual, funky lamps that you think your teen might like. Though lava lamps have been around for a long time they are enjoying a comeback with teens who love things retro, and for those who are interested in good health and relaxation a Himalayan Salt lamp might be the perfect choice. Whatever you can think of as interesting, unusual and somewhat whacky is likely to have a lamp made for it!
You’ve heard of leg warmers, right? Remember when they were the rage a few decades ago? Today they are back and in just as many funky styles and colors, but rather than leg warmers, how about arm warmers? These practical and yet whacky-colored long fingerless glove-type garments will keep your teen girl’s arms warm all day long. When it comes to Xmas gifts for girls you typically cannot go wrong with clothing!
A chia pet is a novel gift for a teen girl. The range of holders has increased significantly over recent years so you are sure to find one that would appeal. This is a fun thing for a teen girl to tend to and then watch it grow over the following days. Even if at the end of it she doesn’t want the chia stalks she can throw those away and still have the fun holder for storing little things in.
Is your teen crazy about Game of Thrones? Did you know there is a Monopoly version of the popular television show? While your teen may not be ‘big’ on playing board games this one may change her mind about that. This would be a great game to play on a slumber party night with all her fellow GoT-crazy girlfriends. Throw in a few bags of ready-to-make popcorn and she will have the recipe for a great sleepover.
Most teens love to take photographs and then share them with their friends. A smartphone projector is a great way for your teen to show off her great photographs to her bestie when she comes over to hang out with her. The projector places an image 8 times larger than the original phone screen image up on a wall and can be tweaked to insure it is in focus. These projectors fit even the largest of smartphones regardless of brand or model.
Hickies are a great gift idea! No, not those big red marks left on a girl’s neck – these Hickies are cool-looking and practical laces for shoes. They attach to the eyelet holes and are easily removed so your teen doesn’t ever have to worry about laces coming undone ever again. What is especially cool about this unique lacing system is that you can mix and match colors with your shoe color or go with a mixture of completely random colors. These essentially are a fashion accessory for shoes!
Bean bag chairs were a huge hit with teens ‘back in the day’ and still are somewhat popular today, but now there is a new version/style available called Yogibo. These chairs/loungers and pillows do the same thing as the traditional bean bag only with a lot more comfort and conforming. They come in a wide range of cool colors to match or compliment your teen’s bedroom décor and some are big enough for two.
You know how attached your teen is to her smartphone. Can you imagine the shock and horror she goes through when her cell phone battery is depleted? It’s almost as if her life has come to an end. This gift idea will alleviate all her cell phone charging worries. It’s a portable smartphone charger that is zipped up neatly inside a wristlet! She can be coolly charging her phone and no one will know, and the best thing is that she will never be without a charger again.
Despite your best intentions December often becomes hectic and you find yourself madly scrambling for a last minute Xmas gift for your mother, girlfriend, sister or wife. Many of the shops have been well picked over but there are still some great gifts to be had that will not only be very much appreciated by her but will give the appearance of you having put a lot of thought into before purchasing. Provided you choose carefully and not succumb to the “any old thing will do” theory you will be golden.
For your mother
Next to your wife your mother is the most special woman in your life so choosing a gift for her is something you should do carefully. There are very few women who don’t love beautiful jewelry and as your Mom is a ‘class act all the way’ a stunning piece of jewelry is bound to bring her a lot of joy not only on Christmas day but every time she wears it.
A mother-son outing is another great gift idea that can be arranged fairly last minute. Look online for tickets to a great show that you know she will enjoy. Book the tickets and then find a nearby restaurant and make reservations there. If the venue is out of town you should book overnight accommodations too. Making this all about her will be something for her to look forward to and enjoy the memory of for years to come.
For your wife
Putting a lot of careful thought into a present for your wife is imperative. Because she knows you well she will know instantly how much thought went into the gift she opens on Christmas Day. You probably left her gift until last so you could fully focus on what she would really love but then you ran out of time. This does not have to be an issue. Consider jewelry. There are not many women who do not love being given a beautiful necklace that clearly shows you know her taste. If you need a reminder of the gems she likes or whether she prefers gold over silver check through her jewelry box when she isn’t looking.
If the love of your life is tech crazy consider a Virtual Reality headset, where she can relax in her down time and go on wild adventures all from the comfort of an easy chair. For a woman who likes to stay fit a Fitbit may be something she would really appreciate receiving as a Xmas present. The Amazon Echo or Echo Dot is another fun ‘tech toy’ that she may enjoy.
If your wife’s favorite perfume is running a bit low you could pick up a gift set. These range from reasonably priced to extravagant dependent upon how much and how many items are included in the set. This may be a good time to introduce her to a new perfume if you think she would like to try something new. Ask the person at the perfume counter to recommend a perfume in a similar ‘tone’ to her favorite, and pick up a small bottle for her to try.
For the confident man who doesn’t mind shopping in women’s lingerie departments there are a ton of last minute gift ideas to be had. While a sexy negligee or bra and panty set may not be the main gift they do make a good add on. Be sure you know your wife’s size, taste in color and style before purchasing, or if unsure make sure there is a good return policy so that she can exchange it if necessary.
For your sister(s)
As sisters grow up and move away from home it can be challenging to come up with gift ideas that you are certain they will appreciate. A nice piece of jewelry is a good choice and can be chosen last minute without looking like you just grabbed the first thing you saw. If your sisters are the kind of ladies who like to pamper themselves you could gift them bath sets or a voucher for a spa treatment in their home town. Gift cards to any of the major retailers are always an option, either as the main gift or as an add on, and will not look last minute because they will understand that you want them to get themselves something they really want rather than you buy them something they won’t.
For your nieces
This largely depends on age. For young girls any toys or crafts are a good option, and for teens gift cards to major clothing shops are the safest options. An iTunes gift card is another good choice so they can choose what music to download with it. Gift cards are becoming increasingly popular, particularly for family who live far apart from each other but exchange gifts at Christmas time.
Christmas shopping for people we love can be a lot of fun, as long as we don’t let choosing the right gifts stress us into making snap decisions. Planning ahead can make gift buying for family members, both young and old, much simpler. You put a lot of love and thought into choosing gifts you believe your loved ones will appreciate and enjoy, but what if you simply don’t know what to buy? This gift guide will help you get some ideas.
By the time your grandparents have reached their senior years it is likely they have all they want in the way of material items so gift buying for them can be challenging to say the least. The two things that seniors often value more than material things are experiences and time. By combining these two elements together you can come up with some great gift ideas. Think of an outing that they would enjoy, where you take them somewhere. A day trip to somewhere that holds good memories for them can be more precious to them than any material gift you can give them, with a wonderful lunch thrown in. Take lots of photographs and then make it up into a memory album for them to look through and remember the wonderful day they spent with you.
Much like grandparents, parents of adult children have often got most of the things they want but as they are likely more active than your grandparents you can choose to give them material gifts or an experience too. If they enjoy doing specific things together you can give them something they can share. A season’s pass to a movie theatre, tickets to a live show, and a year-long pass to an art gallery or a weekend getaway can all be things they will appreciate. Keen gardeners may appreciate new plants for their garden or a gift card to their favorite gardening store. Focus on things that are useful to your parents rather than decorative items. That being said, if they need something replaced because it is old and worn out, then Xmas gift time is a perfect opportunity to give them something you know they want.
If you prefer to gift your parents individually then choose gifts that will mean a lot to them. Ask yourself what they need, and when you answer your questions you will find the best Xmas gift for them. For Mom it may be that piece of kitchen equipment that she has always wanted but never gotten around to buying. Or a favorite perfume that she is running low on. A luxurious bath robe that she is unlikely to buy for herself will give her lots of pleasure every time she wears it. Dads who love sports get him tickets to a local game, or a piece of memorabilia of his favorite team – a sweatshirt or t-shirt may be something he will enjoy wearing.
What Xmas presents to buy children depends largely upon their age. It is imperative that the gifts you choose be age appropriate. If you have no idea what to buy teens simply ask them. While it may seem like there is little surprise involved when you ask them they will be more appreciative of receiving something they want. Fashion conscious teen girls may prefer a gift card to their favorite clothing store so they can choose for themselves. For younger children toys are always a safe bet but you may want to consult parents to ensure you choose the right toys. Books are another good choice for children, particularly if they have hobbies or specific interests. Video games, provided they are suitable for their particular ages, are also a good choice but check to make sure they don’t already have them.
If your entire extended family gets together to celebrate Christmas and exchange Xmas presents then one of the things you might consider doing is buying a family gift that everyone can enjoy. You can start a new family tradition with a funny board game like Headbands or a large jigsaw puzzle that everyone can help do, or buy everyone Christmas pajamas or funny hats. These items can be kept exclusively for Christmas so that they are something special that only comes out when you are all together.
Another way to start a family tradition is with a group Christmas photograph that you get printed up and then mail to everyone in the New Year. If you take a photograph of everyone in their new Xmas pajamas or their funny hats it will be even more fun. Make sure that this is a fun event and not something that the younger members of your family will resent. Let them pull funny faces if that is what they want to do.
Consider buying a S’mores maker so that everyone can sit around in Christmas pajamas on Christmas Eve and watch funny movies and eat S’mores that they have made themselves. This is a more modern twist on the traditional toasting of marshmallows but just as much fun, if not more so. Don’t forget to bring all the makings too.