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It’s nearly December; and I’m almost done with my Christmas shopping, which I’m very proud of. It’s a good sign that I will be able to avoid all the incoming chaos in the city’s many shopping malls. It’s pretty chaotic now, I have to admit; but we all know it will get worse in the coming days and weeks.

They say it’s part of the fun to “shove” your way through shopping for Christmas gifts; but I think more fun is had from buying presents that have been carefully thought of rather than grabbing the first thing that looks good or is a best-seller slash hot item of the moment.

Christmas Is In The Air: Lego Christmas Tree at SM The Block

The past few months have been pretty slow for me, so I gladly took on the task of buying early. I’ve personally enjoyed thinking of great gifts for the people I love, young and old. And since I’ve had the opportunity to mull over what I wish to give this year, I’m sharing a couple of things, corny or practical, that I learned along the way.

1. Ask for help.

I have five nieces of varying ages; and I recently realized how much harder gift-giving has gotten since they’re now a bit older. The ages between five and ten are much trickier in that they’re developing their own tastes and are just starting to discover hobbies that they may or may not develop upon entering adolescence. So don’t be afraid to ask for help.

For the past couple of years, I’ve developed the habit of clearing my gift ideas with the parents. This is so you’re sure that they don’t already have that item and that what you’re thinking of giving is something the kids will appreciate. You may also ask the adults what their children are watching, reading and playing at the moment, because it will allow you to have more ideas on what to give them. If you’re thinking of buying them clothes, parents are a good resource to get the size and style right. Moms and dads could also give you specific gift choices based on what their kids have been eyeing on recently. They also know what their children have too much of and what they might need. They will appreciate you asking; because it means you’re really thinking about the gift.

What to avoid, however, is approaching the kids. Before, I asked them directly what they might want for Christmas. Now, I no longer do that because in my experience, kids are impulse buyers (especially the younger ones). They point to what they want and with such short attention spans nowadays, they get over playing with the gifts by New Year’s. It would be such a waste. I’ve witnessed this a couple of times with the gifts I’ve given. I don’t want it to happen again. Unless what they want is practical (and it rarely is so), I’d rather not give exactly what the kid wants. It should be a balance between what they like and what they could enjoy for a long time.

2. Get Personal.

When it comes to giving gifts for friends, getting personal will always be appreciated. An old picture or a whole picture book for that matter… Anything that brings back memories is never a bad idea.

This year, with all the time I had, I put together picture books for my best friends. With words and images, I summed up a friendship that has lasted a long time; and I’m hoping they’d love it.

I went to PictureBooks for this gift idea. I’ve recently received the photo books I’ve put together; and they look great. To think it was so simple: order online and have it delivered to your home or office.

3. Research.

Online research has become a valuable resource for me this year. Recently, I noticed that my older nieces have developed a love for reading. However, they stuck with one or two series only. I decided to give them books as gifts; but I wanted to introduce them to other types of series and genres.

I took to the Internet and searched for well-known books for their age bracket; and I found the perfect choices. They were not only critically-acclaimed but also well accepted by parents. After purchasing my gifts, I cleared with the parents to be sure that they won’t buy them in the coming weeks.

Customer reviews online are an important source of information about any item you may decide on buying. I initially wanted to give the Angry Birds Knock on Wood game and buying it online. However, certain reviews gave me second thoughts; so I decided to buy a classic board game instead, one that had a number of positive feedback despite being a game that has existed for a long time.

There are also a number of gift guides popping up all across the web. These are a great source of inspiration for that next great gift for your parents, siblings or friends.

4. Buy Online.

If something’s not available in the retail stores, try online. Online shopping is becoming more and more popular in recent years; and trusted sellers are not that hard to come by these days. Personally, I never go wrong with ebay.ph and the Multiply Marketplace. You just have to spend some time making sure that you’re buying from a reliable source with a number of past customers and positive consumer feedback.

I recently bought a hard-to-find item online; and with it being delivered directly to my doorstep, what could be more convenient?

5. Be Sincere.

Nowadays, they say Christmas is only for the kids to enjoy. All we adults do is burden our pockets with the expenses. I usually think this; but this year, I’ve appreciated the art of gift-giving and how great it feels when I’ve finally settled on a present. It has become my own version of the holidays.

I feel like I’ve put significant effort in the gifts I’ve bought this year. I’m really looking forward to seeing the look on people’s faces once they receive their gifts. And if you are sincere in putting thought into your gift, it will show. This is when the saying, “It’s the thought that counts,” rings through.

And with that, good luck on the shopping. The countdown begins… Happy Holidays!