As a graduate student, I think its almost a prerequisite that you live a great distance from home during your studies, I'm currently holding a 600 mile buffer-zone myself. Anyways, Christmas has always been a stressful time for myself, not because of finals or worrying about gifts to give...its those people who want to buy me gifts I have had the problem with. I had trouble communicating with both families, people got upset with me and other people because they had bought me both the same thing. Not only that, that also meant returning stuff, which is every person's dream right after Christmas. Talk about a waste of time, money, and energy mending the wounds of Christmas chaos.
This year, I have taken a new approach with the help of thethingsIwant.com At this website, it allows you to create a universal registry of items for any occasion (or none at all), including Christmas. You can even get a button added to your browser tool bar so that any time you are browsing a webpage and see something you would like, just click on it and a small window will pop up where you can edit the title, price, add any notes (like, "Won't be released until Dec. 12"; "Would prefer in white"; etc.), and designate the priority of the item. The viewable list will also provide a picture and link to the page you took the item from.
Then, when you are ready to share your list with all of those people who wish to shower you with gifts, you can share with them through email available. You can put a password on the list or make it entirely private if you are worried that too many people would buy you things ;) Anyways, so now your mom can look at your list, and can make the choice to buy an item from the site you provided, or choose the "Offline Reservation" button, which means they are going to either buy it in person or somewhere else online. Either way, it will let other people know the item has been bought.
"It will take away the surprise!" I hear you say. Have no fear, simply modify the list and click the option that says "Suprise me!" and you won't be able to know who has bought you something or what has been bought, just like Amazon's wishlists. In addition, having these lists are always helpful because you are asking for things you would actually like, want, or need. Theres nothing like faking that smile and bringing your item back or perhaps throwing it in the closet. I have especially made a point this year to not just put fun things on my list, but also more practical items like an electric toothbrush or a blender.
I'm excited to try this one out, and I am hoping this will reduce the conflict and stress of previous years. If you know what I am talking about, give it a look if you have technologically connected relatives. Heres to the start of the Christmas season!