A Different Approach to Gift Giving This Holiday Season

This blog was created to document different details about my cancer journey.  One of the things that cancer has taught me is what really matters to me and what really doesn’t.  The holiday season is upon us and thus the relentless purchasing of gifts shifts into high gear. There is Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, a Cyber Monday.  I have nothing against giving a few gifts if people want to.  Unfortunately, it’s become more about feeling obligated to purchase gifts for some people which then creates unnecessary stress.

Today is Giving Tuesday which helped nudge me to pen this post. The amount of gifts that are given – especially to children – as well as the accompanying price tags is disheartening to me. I feel saddened instead because this season is not about the price or the number of gifts.  Each year, I hear friends say, “We have budgeted “X” dollars for each of our kids for Christmas (I often hear anywhere from $200-500 per child) and then we have the rest of the family to buy gifts for.”  I’m not sure what compels people to tell each other how much they are spending but I, for one, am not impressed when I hear the dollar amount.  What happens with these expenses instead is that kids get so many gifts that not much really means anything to them.  In fact, you’ll often find these stacks of gifts in a yard sale in 6 months.  Do your kids remember what gifts they unwrapped last year?  Do you remember what you received? How about the year before?

The commercialization of the holiday season benefits no one other than the retailers who increase their bottom line.  In the old days, people focused on creating memories and/or helping others rather than the purchase of gifts.

How about changing things up this year?  A new idea would be to allocate the money differently and it could be:

  • used to go somewhere to create new memories with the family – hiking, camping, visiting a state park or national park, etc.
  • used to fly in family or friends to create new memories
  • used to register everyone for a local charity 5K race/kids’ fun run.  Make it fun and take a lot of photos.
  • donated to a worthy charity or medical research in the name of each recipient
  • If gifts must be purchased, try the 3 gifts per child/person rule:
    • 1 they need
    • 1 to read
    • 1 to wear
  • Or forgo the money altogether and agree to make hand-made gifts for one another, play some new or old board games, and donate time together – as a family – to help others:
    • wrapping gifts for underprivileged children
    • helping a local church or community charity to serve a holiday meal to those less fortunate
    • donating time with a local Habitat for Humanity to help build a home
    • having the entire family go out one day and shovel some of the neighbors’ sidewalks and driveways (if you live in a snowy area)
    • visiting nursing homes and sing Christmas carols off-key (always appreciated by the residents)
    • visiting a children’s hospital and bring some homemade gifts
    • cooking a meal and take it to a neighbor who may live alone or better yet, invite that neighbor over for dinner
    • baking some cookies or brownies together and then take them to a local fire station or police station on Christmas to share with those who are working and keeping your community safe

Growing up, what I remember most is spending time with my grandparents and extended family in my grandparents’ home in Tennessee. We would gather in the kitchen and help prepare meals, we sat around the dining room table and chatted (this was long before cell phones were around), and we also went through the extra “stuff” around the house each year to donate to a local charity.  We had a blast spending time together.  Those memories mean more to me than any gift I ever unwrapped.

Instead of spending the money “just because” it is in the budget or because you have the financial means to do so, maybe it is time to think outside the box this year and do things a little differently.

Make some gifts.

Create some memories.  

Help others while doing so.

Those will be what everyone remembers from year-to-year and those are the real gifts that will be cherished.

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