Holiday Madness to Gladness


What would you say to making holiday gift exchanges a pain free, sure thing ?

Every year our family members shop brick and mortar stores, and scour the Internet to find gifts for each other. We often email wish lists with ideas, and to make it mistake-proof, sometimes there are even links going to the exact item! (I’ve been guilty of this.)

Most often, the same list goes to everyone in the family, so if we don’t check with each other, it’s not unusual for two people to buy the same gift for someone. Duplicates have been re-gifted, returned or traded, but inevitably, everyone smiles and says thanks!

There is at least one person who doesn’t believe in gift lists and buys whatever feels right, regardless of whether someone wants it or not. And at least there’s no chance of duplicates!

For a couple of years I’ve been wanting to try an experiment during the holidays. It’s really a pretty flexible, and potentially stress-free strategy.

I have the best family. Six months ago I asked them to try an experiment for our holiday gift exchange, and this is the year everyone is on board!

The experiment  🙂

Instead of sending out lists of things we want, each person is simply in charge of buying their own presents this year. Each present we buy ourselves will be designated as a gift from another family member. Family members will have no idea what they are “giving.”


For example, I could buy myself a new LG K8V smart phone and wrap it up as a gift from my husband, David. He knows I love technology and gadgets, but he is a self-avowed neo-Luddite and wouldn’t know which features matter to me or what phone I’d want. But if I know I want an LG K8V and I buy it, when I open my gift from David, he will be surprised, and I end up with a perfect present!

For David, it might be a load of lumber to build a new basement stairway at our vacation home. I don’t know a thing about treads and risers, but HE does!

Do you see how this can work?

In all cases, there will still be an element of surprise because no one knows what they are giving to the other recipients. It might even provide insight into the things some of us really like. AND, all clothing will fit; there will be no unwanted duplicates, and whatever a person’s budget is, it will work! Furthermore, we end up buying the same number of presents as usual…or maybe even fewer.

My brother, a retired Sr. Technical Fellow for Boeing, asked, “Can we buy one gift and make it from everyone?”


If you’ve been wanting a big-screen television, or a computer, you can buy it and make it a gift from the whole family. One-stop shopping and you get something you really want and need.

Or maybe you are tired of getting “stuff” and are trying to purge things instead of acquire more possessions? You can buy a bottle of your favorite nail polish, a pound of your favorite coffee, or a new supply of socks or underwear. You get the idea — maybe kind of unglamorous stuff, but things you really want, need and will happily use.

If the thing you love about gift exchanges is the look of surprise on someone’s face, just remember, it can still happen. It’s just that the look of surprise is on “your” face when you see what you’ve given someone!

So, what do you think? Is this a hair-brained idea or a stroke of brilliance? I’ll report back with the results of our experiment whether it’s a success or a bust!

Meanwhile, U.S. residents who leave a response to this post by December 12, 2016, will be eligible to win a new Verizon Smartphone: the LG K8V— a beautiful Android device with a ton of amazing features, including a large 5” HD display, a hands-free “selfie” feature, an SD-slot and removable battery. And it’s a good traveler since it works in more than 200 countries. I’ve been impressed with LG for its amazing color quality, quick charging and ease of use.terri-nakamura-lg-k8v

The winning comment will be chosen by one of my cats. The selection will be posted here, and you’ll need to check to see if you’ve won. I’ll give the winner 2 days to get in touch with me to provide me with mailing information. If I don’t hear from him/her, I’ll move to the next in line.

Who knows? You could end up with your own Christmas gift, courtesy of Verizon 🙂 

 12/12/16 — THE WINNER OF THE LG K8V can be found here:
Please contact me with your mailing address!

29 thoughts on “Holiday Madness to Gladness

  1. This is a fabulous idea!!! I anticipate the results of this experiement. Sound like a fun night is about to unfold!!! HAPPY HOLIDAYS TO YOU AND YOURS!!!💜


  2. This is obviously a brilliant idea, Terri! My grandparents used to buy their own gifts for Hanukkah and wrap them from each other. My Grandma began buying her own birthday gifts shortly after she and my Grandpa got married because he was off on a Navy ship. My mom would buy her own Hanukkah gifts, too. I think you’ve got a good tradition started! I can’t wait to hear how this goes.


    • Sarah, thank you so much for your response. It’s so neat that your grandparents have already piloted this idea, so it gives me hope that it will not be a complete disaster. I also like that your grandparents put foil beneath burning candles. I’m not sure why I do that (my mom didn’t), but it makes a lot of sense. It’s going to be interesting to see how the cats choose the winner here. ((HUGS)) Terri


  3. What an interesting experiment! Our family has never done ‘Wish lists’ but my mom and several other female relatives have been buying gifts for themselves for years so they get what they really want. The packages just say they’re from Santa and it IS revealing/insightful to see what ‘Santa’ brings them. For myself, I still like the surprise and to see what family members have selected for me; usually they’re very thoughtful, some gifts have surprised the heck out of me as being spot on but something I hadn’t even thought about, and a few have been ‘duds’ that get unshopped. But I can’t wait for your next post to know how it turns out! Who knows, I may be persuaded…🙂


    • Thanks, Linda, for telling me about your experiences. I guess I’ve always felt too guilty to buy something for myself, although after the fact, I’ve occasionally done so. We are talking about exchanging small surprises, like stocking stuffers, which we do normally, so there will still be an opportunity to surprise someone! Hunter and Grey are on notice. Usually their only jobs are to look cute. I hope they look cute choosing a winner here! ((HUGS)) and thanks again!


    • Peg, thanks very much for the feedback! I don’t know if it’s really thinking outside the box, but it seemed like it would mix things up, and likely we’d all remember our gifts this year! Stay tuned!


  4. Hi Terri, we in my little family talk about the kind of present we would like to have. My son is a very special one. He does not accept presents he did not ask for. But we do know that! My parents and my brothers do not get presents, only my very dear sister.
    Me, I would not love to buy my personal present. However I will look how your experiment will be!


    • Annegret, someone on Twitter told me it is not a gift if we buy it ourselves, but I disagree. If we have to put it away and wait to open it, it will be something that is enthusiastically anticipated! You will find out what happens! ((HUGS)) and thank you for telling me about your family’s traditions!


  5. ‪Althoug unfortunately I’m not living in the US, I want to comment Terri! I’m sure it will work!! Clearly a stroke of brilliance, and let me say, not unexpected coming from someone who is always practical and transparent. As you say, I found it quite stressing every year going around buying Christsmas gifts for my family, I confess I’m not good at guessing right what can make happy everyone and you need to find extra-time in a busy season “to walk and re-walk shops”! You came up with the solution Terri I will suggest to experiment it at home this year too!


    • Teia, thank you for your comment. And may I say I find it very nerve wracking buying surprise gifts for people. It can take much thought and time, and you never know for sure if someone is being kind and ACTING like they like something. I do hope it goes well, but you’ll find out if it doesn’t.

      In any case, I wish you the most wonderful holiday season! ((HUGS))


  6. We tried something similar one year where we bought our own gifts and then opened them at Christmas and I was unsure about how I felt about it. I did indeed love the necklace I got, and I really needed new oven mitts! I’ll be very interested to hear how you feel about it. Merry Christmas!


    • Deer Peek, Now I’m seriously curious how you guys arrived at the plan to do that? For a couple of years I’ve been wanting to try this, so it’s going to be interesting no matter what. Unfortunately Charley flies to the Philippines Christmas Day, so it’s already going to be weirder than normal. But having everyone home at the same time is a real treat, and this gift exchange is unimportant compared to spending time together. LOVE YA! And thank you for reading and sharing. ((HUGS)) Nak


  7. My mother in law did this regularly for anniversaries, etc. Brilliant compared to nagging your spouse ;P



    • Beth, thanks for the comment. It’s funny, but I’ve always heard about people who buy their own birthday gifts, or anniversary gifts, but I often assumed they picked something that was paid for by someone else. In your mother-in-law’s case, she was a smart cookie! No disappointing mementos!

      Great to see you! Thanks again and my cats are plotting how they’re going to choose!



  8. Love this idea and have proposed it to the family. The last few years, we’ve done the pick a number exchange (can’t remember it’s proper name), but it’s where each person buy’s a gift at a specified dollar amount and then … well, you know the story. Anyway, I always end up with something that’s completely useless and leave it. There’s also someone that usually not willing to fairly play the game, so they put a damper on the whole thing. I’ve not stooped that low yet, but I’ve been close. So when I saw you idea, I thought … “perfect” … and we’ll now see if the rest of the family will participate. I already know what I want to buy for myself. Thanks Terri … and Happy Holidays to you, David and the rest of your family.


    • Michael, I’m so glad to see your comment. I was beginning to think I might be crazy. But hey, we are going for it, and it will be interesting to see if people are happy or miss the “disappointment” of getting surprise gifts.
      We do a gift exchange with a segment of the family. They’re like “white elephants,” so it’s assumed most of the gifts will be unwanted junk. I guess if you go in with low expectations, anything halfway decent works!
      I’ll pass along your regards to David. It sure would be fun to see you one of these days!
      Stay tuned!
      Love, T


  9. I really like the idea, Terri. I would add the following idea: The recipient makes a brief list for the giver to choose what he or she would buy (which is common). Then the giver would select a few choices from the list or add to it, allowing the giver to choose what he or she feels is suitable, and shares the new list. Form this ideally narrower list, the recipient buys the gift designated as the gift from giver, and doesn’t share it until the gift is opened. If the giver is present, the element of surprise is still (somewhat) there when the present is opened. I like this because both parties are participate. Also, it has the no duplicates solution. Have a wonderful holiday season!


    • Alan, I’m glad you like the idea and even like the twist. The duplicate part is really one of the problems. It’s happened a half dozen times. Inconvenient for the recipient and disappointing for the giver, but as my friend Reg says, it’s a case of “first-world problems!”

      Stay tuned to see who wins. It could be you!

      Thanks for reading and for your comment!

      ((HUGS)) T


  10. Terri, I LOVE this. With my girls living out of state, I’ve succumbed to gift cards…..convenient and very practical but not all that personal. Then there’s the monetary amount. Is $100 enough? $150 too much?
    What about their significant others? This is the perfect guilt-free way to treat yourself to something you
    really want and, yes, it will fit and be happily used. Merry Christmas and lots of love to you and yours!!


    • Dear Jennifer,

      Whew. So glad you don’t think I’ve completely lost it. It seemed like such an amazing idea, but now that it comes down to actually doing it, I wonder how it will go. I’ll sure keep you posted.

      I’m starting to question why we do the things we’ve always done, but maybe they’re done that way for a reason. It would be cool if this idea works, and maybe also diminish the sick feeling I sometimes have when I consider the time and expense involved in buying people things they don’t want or need.

      Thanks for being such a good friend! See you this weekend!

      Love, Terri


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