Make Gift-Giving Easier: Buy Gifts on a Theme

This is a tip I grew up on, y’all. My mom is a total master at this little trick!  I guess when you have 11 kids, you learn ways to simplify life (and Christmas and birthdays) like this.

Here’s the tip: buy everybody on your list the same thing. OK, almost the same thing. You don’t want to give your 5-year-old niece and your 40-year-old bachelor cousin the same exact thing. You can tweak each individual gift to fit the person, but really, you’re buying everybody the same thing.

For example…

Theme Gift Ideas

  • DVD’s – Everybody loves a good movie, right? And you can easily buy the lastest princess movie for your 5-year-old niece, and the most recent blockbuster shoot-em-up for your bachelor cousin, thus satisfying the needs of individuality and simplification in one fell swoop.
  • Books – Ebooks, hardbacks, paperbacks, doesn’t matter. That’s up to you. But I can promise you this: there is a book out there that is perfect for every single person on your list. Guaranteed.
  • CD’s/MP3’s – Granted, this one is a little trickier, because people’s music tastes and preferences can be so varied and so very personal. But don’t sweat it! If you give Amazon MP3’s as a gift, the recipient can easily swap it out for different music they prefer.
  • Food – Everybody has to eat. That’s an inescapable fact of life. And if it’s an indulgent sort of edible, they are not likely to complain. Think along the lines of universal favorites, like pizza, pasta, chocolate, and coffee. Or go with gourmet coffees and teas. Another popular idea this time of year is gourmet popcorn or candies. Buy small portions of gourmet goodies and package them up with inexpensive dishware or kitchen gadgets that you find at discount stores, thrift stores, or online.
  • Photographs – Shutterfly has TONS of gift ideas in every price range so you can find a little somethin’ for everybody on your list.
  • Clothes – Now, I don’t actually recommend this one unless you’re desperate, because not everybody likes to get clothes for gifts, especially if the gift-er is not particularly in tune with their own personal sense of style. But you can adapt this particular category by choosing specific elements of clothing for different segments of your gift-giving list: scarves for all the ladies, ties for all the guys, dresses for the little girls, and character t-shirts for the boys.
  • Jewelry – You might not be able to give all the guys on your list jewelry, but chances are, every single female you know would love to receive a little bauble, even if it is only costume jewelry. Earrings are a popular wish list item in my family and extended family, all the way from the tots to the… well… not-so-tots. (I don’t want to say their age cuz they might be reading. I have to see them at Christmastime, ya know!)
  • Pets – Just kidding. Don’t you dare, unless you want to be blacklisted from every family gathering from now until 2065.

Generic and Highly Customizable At the Same Time

What I love about this concept is that it makes gift-giving so very simple, but it doesn’t take away the loving thought that goes into giving a good gift. Just because you’re giving everyone the same thing doesn’t mean you haven’t take into consideration each person’s individual personality, hobby, dreams and desires. It just means you’re a smart person who knows how to simplify your life without losing authenticity in the process.

And not only can you customize these gift themes according to individuals and families, you can customize them by price as well! Books come in every shape, size, topic, and price, so you can spend more on your hubby’s book (or set of books – I got mine this set of Calvin and Hobbes books one year) and less on your second cousin three times removed.

How do you simplify the gift-giving and buying process?


  1. This year the adults on my side of the family are doing homemade, handmade, re-gift, or great thrift store finds under $10. My sister even joked, “the nicest present that comes the closest to free, wins!” I have chosen to make ALL the girls on both sides of my family necklaces. I usually always give them all the same type of thing because, you are right, it makes it so much easier.
    We had the kids (cousins) exchange names this year . Their present must be $15 or under. When they don’t exchange names, I find I am the one thinking through what to get ALL of the cousins and worried about how much I’m spending, etc. When they do exchange names, each of my boys takes ownership of the one they drew and decides on their own (with a little guidance ;)) what they are going to buy. Setting the price limit also helps to control the worry of price, not to mention, we are buying fewer gifts since it is only the names drawn that we are buying for.
    These things have lead to a fairly stress free Christmas so far this year.

  2. Great idea! I do that within my immediate family, but didn’t think to extend it out. Thanks and merry Christmas to your mom! :)

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