You know, if you don't like shopping, you probably shouldn't do it. Gift giving is supposed to be as good as gift receiving. I find that I adore shopping for my fiance. I listen to him all year long to hear what he wants, then enjoy surprising him with really good gifts. I spend about
$100 on him at Christmas, and about
half that on our anniversary and his birthday. I enjoy getting him things even more than I look forward to
opening what he gets for me. Most people feel this way about
giving kids stuff for Christmas but I, thankfully, don't have any, so Stuart gets to enjoy it all. I also make a point of giving him something really nice that's handmade. This isn't a surprise, since he sees me working on it, but he gets it all the same and appreciates it.
Now everyone else is a complete toss up. I find that I don't enjoy giving others presents as much and I don't put a lot in store by the ones I get. Yes, it's nice to give and get and feel included, but I make decent money and can really afford to buy for myself what I'm given, so it's not like when I was a kid and dependent on Christmas to get new things. That and I'm big on being clutter-free, and a lot of what I get is just more clutter. Stuart and I tend to spend more on each other than we would spend on ourselves, so we do get things we wouldn't get otherwise, lol.
I have found, though, a lot of pleasure in making Christmas gifts. I think these are more meaningful and, really, how much more "stuff" do people need anyways? Of course making things can be overwhelming to people who make too much or who don't enjoy making things to begin with, so that's not always a good answer to replacing shopping.
To reduce holiday shopping (and thus stress) you may want to consider doing name draws and only buy for one person or one family instead of everyone you're related to. The other option is to buy "couple's gifts" to avoid having to buy for two adults. Kitchen and household items and some car items are usually good for just about any couple. And don't be afraid to get everyone the same thing. If there's a good buy on water filter pitchers, get every couple one (what my grandmother got all of us last year). There's most everyone done in one fell swoop. And a lot of families opt to give framed pictures of the family or especially the kids as Christmas gifts because grandparents especially can be so hard to buy for. And don't forget that you're not obligated to pick up three different things for every single person. My fiance laments the fact that his family believes in multiple gifts; he has said more than once he wished they would go in together and get him one expensive thing that he really wants (and can't afford himself) than give him two dozen little presents. I've been trying for several years to get my family to all pitch in and buy my grandmother a new back door because she desperately needs one. No, they have to buy her a 7th set of dishes which she definitely does not need because a back door "isn't a good Christmas present." I say if you need and want it, what does it matter what "it" is?? This year I'm going to advocate getting her a new sewing machine, but I think I'll lose. How easy is it to give one person money and let that one person go buy one present? Totally stress free!
As for cooking, why try and do it all? If you're hosting, make everyone bring a dish and you supply the meat. Reserve a Honey Baked Ham or the like (man, those are GOOD!) and pick it up the day before. Heat it up and it's ready to go. No basting a turkey for hours. Even if you can't get the lazy bums bring food with them, just get some pre-made. The Honey Baked Ham store, if I remember correctly, has all of your basic sides for sale. A lot of supermarkets delis have holiday sides available too if you preorder them. Then there's always the KFC family value meal, lol.
To reduce holiday stress reduce the amount of gifts you buy (there are charities in the malls who will wrap them for a small fee if you don't want to do even that), reduce the amount of food you cook and stare blissfully at the tree when people start arguing. Let the angels sing in your head as the tree lights twinkle and stuff starts getting thrown around you. And if your family is an honest-to-goodness nightmare, skip visting them all together. There's no law saying you have to. Grab up your mate and go on vacation somewhere instead. Many cities have Christmas packages, including tours of historic homes or other sites. If your problem is you cram too many families into one holiday, do what we do which is split them up. My family got Thanksgiving year before last and his Christmas. Then last year we swapped up. This year we'll be back to my family at T and his at C. If we ever get moved back to where I used to live, we could always do Christmas with both since his family and mine aren't that far apart, but since Thanksgiving is only one day, we'll continue to switch that one out.
Get over having a perfectly decorated house, a perfect homemade meal, three gifts under the tree for every distant cousin and your mailman and just move slowly and enjoy yourself. The season is about thanksgiving, charity and miracles (be you Christian or Jewish), not about 60% off a three-in-one juicer/blender/drink mixer or getting the very last vibrating, giggling, light-up, artifical intelligence, babysits-the-kid-so-you-don't-have-to plush Elmo doll. Take a step back, examine what the holidays mean to you and how you want to feel while participating in them and then do that, regardless of social or family pressures. If you are the only one who doesn't see Christmas as a time to one-up everyone in the family, or display the spending limits on your credit cards, then so be it. Look at those around you who are missing the point, feel sorry for them and then ignore them. That's the best way to stay stress free and to keep your intestinal tract happy.
If you search on the internet (try looking on TheDollarStretcher.com too), you'll find all sorts of ideas for handmade gifts and starting traditions. Once they're grown, most kids remember making cookies or reading "'Twas the Night Before Christmas," not what they actually got for presents.