Tag Archives: christmas shopping

Tips for Wrapping Presents for the Holidays

Fran Berger and Gift Wrapping tips

Isn’t it time to change up your Christmas wrapping skills?

I was always the gift wrapper at my house while growing up. The rest of my family thought it was a big chore, but I loved it. I turned every gift into a work of art. Some of my neighbors even turned to me for help with a “really special” gift.

Even when I was pretty young – like ten years old – my wrapped gifts were real stand-outs. I created themes for every gift I wrapped. Sometimes the theme was based on the individual, sometimes the relationship. Lots of times the theme was set for whatever occasion we were celebrating: birthdays, anniversaries, congratulations – and, oh yes, the holidays.

Back then, when I had nothing else to do but homework and chores, gift wrapping was a great distraction. I dreamed of different ways I could wrap presents. One year, I used aluminum foil and sparkly ribbons. Another year, it was newspaper – the sports page, the daily comics, or the Sunday funnies. One time, my dad had a friend who was a very successful entrepreneur. I used the stock pages from the newspaper with black ribbon (you know, because he was in the “black”?) – and wrapped a birthday present for him. I got a very nice compliment from them both.

I still wrap presents for friends and family. But these days, putting a theme together for gift wrapping is a lot easier. There are so many options now – stores have whole departments dedicated to people like me. Take a look at the options they have at The Container Store. I can browse a catalog like this for hours.

Here are my tips for making your holiday gift wrapping fun, and not such a chore.

First, you need a large clear, flat, hard surface to wrap presents. The floor will work, but be kind to your knees and back. Most important, make sure that whatever surface you have is flat enough and hard enough to make nice sharp creases.

Second, get all your tools and wrapping supplies together. That means having tape, sharp scissors, whatever you decide to use for paper and ribbon all in one place and ready to use. Your “next-level” tools could be double-sided tape (so you can hide the tape edges) and an old but reasonably sharp paring knife. Line up the edges of the paper, fold it where you want to cut, press a hard crease on that fold and slide the knife along the crease – presto – very precise and straight cuts!

Third, snacks for the gift wrapper and an excellent soundtrack. Of course, right?  Just be careful to keep your hands clean.  Fingerprints aren’t part of the plan!

I keep different papers on hand – for whatever season or occasion. I even hold onto the little scraps that are larger than my hand for the small gifts and keep those wrapped around the paper rolls. But maybe you’re worried about crunching the edges of the paper rolls when you shove them into a closet.

Here’s an easy solution for keeping wrapping paper safe. Buy several shipping tubes that are large enough to store two or three rolls of paper. Make sure that you get the types that have the plastic caps that insert into the tube. Label the tubes and pull them out when you need them (little scraps and all).

But if you want to make the gift even more special, you’ll want to go out and purchase paper that matches a theme you set for the receiver. Buy ribbons to match the theme and color of the wrapping paper. I love satin ribbons for the holidays; in particular, the ribbons with wire edges that make them so much more fun. But who says ribbon only? Try raffia or yarn (or raffia and yarn together).

Some items may need a gift box as well. Here comes The Container Store to the rescue with really easy to use pre-made gift boxes.

Don’t forget tissue (again, in colors to match the theme). And, remember gift labels or cards – you want to be sure that the person receiving your gift knows who to thank. But, sometimes gift bags are just the thing for that weird shaped gift.

My last and best tip – make it fun and make sure you put some joy into each gift you wrap.

Time Management for the Holidays

time management - vertical

My Top 5 Tips for sane and safe planning during the holidays.

This is one of my favorite times of the year, I can plan all the holiday parties I want and not go crazy. It’s the one time of the year that I can turn on all the great holiday party ideas that I’ve been storing up for the year. And you know me, holiday decorations, party themes, finger food, appetizers – you name it – I’ve got something I want to try.

But, this is also the time of year that we can lose ourselves in all the demands on our time. Considering that the usual demands don’t stop – work, the meetings, classes, a visit to the dentist, coffee with a friend, a drive downtown – we’re adding a lot of extra stuff. This is where all those years owning my restaurants comes in handy.

Owning a restaurant is all about planning. A well-managed restaurant is a little like a ballet. The key to making it easy? We never let up. We always plan ahead. And, we’ve always got a plan “B” – you know, just in case.

My Top 5 Tips for Holiday Planning:

  1. Start early – like NOW. If you’re like me and sometimes think it’s a circus up there – write it down! Don’t rely on your memory to hold in all the ideas and schedules in your head. Use that smartphone that you’re carrying around. It’s got a calendar function in there that works pretty well.
  2. Big time saver: make a list of everything that you need to do and update it on a regular basis. Include everything: shopping for gifts, shopping for food – your grocery list, Holiday decorations – whatever. Then consolidate the lists into shopping trips.
  3. Match your calendar with your list. Set blocks of time for everything from your list. Pick a start time and how long you think it will take, but pad the time block a bit and expect delays. They are inevitable. Do as much early as you can i.e. – anything that doesn’t spoil try to buy way ahead of when you will need it.
  4. Multitasking isn’t always the best idea any time of the year. But, it’s particularly true this time of year. In fact, multitasking too many different things often produces a disaster. Speaking for myself, I focus on one task at a time. Make it right. Then move on to the next.
  5. Follow your plan and schedule as closely as possible. If, for some reason, something is delayed or postponed, reschedule it immediately or delete it entirely. Resist the temptation to “save” tasks that – for whatever reason – cannot be completed as planned. Reschedule or move on.

Along with my “TOP 5” holiday planning tips, make sure that that you always think about doing something nice for yourself each day. Whatever it is – some quiet time, a hot bath, watching your guilty pleasure – just take time in the day (or evening) to do something you like to do for only you!

And, most important of all, don’t forget to breathe. The bustle of the holidays may encroach on your space a bit. Some of the tasks may pile up – especially if you have kids (or friends and relatives with kids). The stress level may climb a bit. Remind yourself (if you can every day) that you’re in control. Your schedule is your key to getting everything you need accomplished for the holiday season.

Remember there are only 24 hours in a day. If you schedule too much for one day, prioritize and start taking things off your list – if you can – try to delegate what you can’t get to. You’re only human! It’s OK to say no.

How to Plan Your Holiday Shopping

holiday shopping - black friday - cyber monday

SIX SHOPPING TIPS to help you from being “cyber-crazy” this holiday.


It’s that time again – time for the year-end holiday traditions: the Christmas office party, finger foods, holiday decorations, and gifts. OMG, did you forget the Secret Santa Gift – again? You rush headlong into the mall and BAM – you’re smack in the middle of another tradition: the start of holiday shopping season.

Take a breath and remember that it only happens once a year. Retailers have been calling the day after Thanksgiving “Black Friday” for more than 60 years. The theory is that the term “Black Friday” originally came from the Philadelphia police department because thousands of people would descend on the city the day after Thanksgiving ahead of the annual Army/Navy football game on Saturday.  The stores took advantage of the crowds with big sales and the police were stuck with long and very busy shifts.  They weren’t happy.  But, the shoppers were!

Why the rush? It’s historically a day when retailers pull out all the stops to get shoppers into their stores. Retailers called it “Black Friday” because the volume of sales could put a retail store back into “the black” with enough profit to cover the entire year.

It’s also, historically, the best day of the year to get a great deal on all those holiday gifts you want to buy for friends – and for yourself. But these days, it doesn’t stop there. If you’re an online shopper like many people are now, you can avoid the crowds, the lines, the hassle of brick and mortar shopping, and get in on some pretty good deals. Retailers got wise pretty quickly and created “Cyber Monday” just for you.

The whole weekend has morphed into the biggest shopping weekend of the year (sales begin to be advertised more than a week before with some retailers posting ads as early as October); enough cyber-crazy to produce more than $3 billion in sales last year. Some retailers will also push out good deals through Tuesday. So, from Thursday (with some starting midnight Wednesday night) to Tuesday, you can literally shop until you drop – or your fingers get too tired!  Big Retailers already have their ads out for Black Friday.  If the retailers are planning that far in advance then it just makes sense then that we should plan ahead too, right?

Here are Six easy tips to help you survive this holiday shopping season and not spend more than you planned:

Tip One – Make your shopping lists for everything including electronics (iPhone, Xbox, etc.) and set the price that you’re willing to pay now. That way you can jump on the deals when you recognize them.

Tip Two – The technology deals are best on Thanksgiving and Black Friday but some may get better the closer to Cyber Monday/Tuesday you get.  But, don’t wait and hope to see a lower price than the one you’re happy with because it’s possible the item will sell out before the end of the day.  Remember – once an item is sold out the store will not honor the sale price – if it’s sold out – it’s sold out.  Cyber Monday has gotten pretty good for “soft goods” like clothing, shoes, even beauty products. There are even great deals on travel – mostly for year-round presales for resort hotels and spas.

Tip Three – Buy from companies you know – Amazon, Best Buy, Walmart, eBay, and so on.  The holidays are a very bad time to test out a new online shopping experience.

Tip Four – DOUBLE check the return policies – because you never know. Remember that whatever the store policy was last year, it’s a good bet they’ve changed it this year.

Tip Five – Don’t forget to check shipping terms and conditions. Sometimes you’ll find excellent deals that can save you a bundle on shipping. How about that Secret Santa gift? Remember that the faster you want something, the higher shipping costs. It only makes sense.  All the more reason to plan ahead and shop with plenty of time to spare.  About that sometimes nasty shipping cost – if you’re a late shopper you may have traded one hell for another. Your choice might be to either get swallowed up by the thick crowds at the mall or be hammered by very expensive overnight shipping costs.

A friend told me about her experience last year. She waited until the very last week to do her holiday shopping online and wound up paying hundreds of dollars in rush shipping fees to make sure that the gifts arrived on time. She said that one gift that she bought cost less than the overnight shipping fees. I was astounded.

Tip Six is for the deep divers: I found this great stream on The Verge for the best Black Friday/Cyber Monday deals all in one place. The deals change quite a bit, so go back and check it often.

Keep it fun!