December’s meeting focused on the struggles of money around the holidays. Gift-giving, it seems, has taken on a whole different tone in the last few decades from being an act of enjoyment and pleasure to being act act of drugery and dread. No where in life do emotions and money collide more than around the holidays (except weddings, that’s a whole other post).
A few things we discussed:
– Does anyone need more stuff?
– Home made gifts
– Experience gifts
– Yankee Exchange
– Modern family situations
– Food & drink
– How to respond when everyone arrives wondering what they can do to help
With programs from “Hoarders: Buried Alive”, “Clean House,” and “Clean Sweep,” it is clear that we do NOT need more stuff. And yet, some people have a vision of a LOT of (tangible) presents under the tree and simply cannot shake that vision; anything less means that the holidays are somehow a failure… and that they are somehow a failure. This is NOT holiday spirit!
I suggest taking some time to think about where this image comes from. Perhaps you didn’t get a lot of toys as a kid and feel a need to shower your kids to make up for it.
For some, having expensive, brand-name items helps them feel good about themselves. “I have (x) therefore I am (y),” (fill in the blanks for homework, you’ll be amazed).
Maybe wrapping up nice compliments written on some lovely paper can be boxed up and wrapped to help you satisfy your need for lots of packages without maxing your credit card or necessitating the hiring of a home organizer.
Oh boy, this is a tough one for those of us who are parents. If you’re struggling financially, obtaining gifts can be especially pressure-filled when you have younger children. Bear in mind that most young children have attention spans that are very, very short. You can purchase a few inexpensive gifts and package up what’s been forgotten under the tree for next year! Seriously, they probably won’t notice.
Home made gifts
Gift-giving can be a bit of an ego trip. When the giver is more focused on the attention s/he gets for giving a gift than the recipient’s joy, there is a problem. This can be remedied by making something using your own unique talents and skills. My brother-in-law is an excellent woodscrafter and makes an ornament for his neighbor every year; they are legendary! My sister makes soap with essential oils and goat’s milk and a friend and I made those cookie-mix-in-a-jar sets for teachers and neighbors. Relatively inexpensive and full of care, home-made gifts help convey the true spirit of giving.
Rather than thing-gifts, how about do-gifts?
Life is a series of experiences, and we all desire more good experiences. Like home made gifts, experience gifts can be inexpensive and meaningful because you’re thinking about what your loved one would most enjoy; be it a day sledding followed by cocoa, a trip to the art gallery and coffee and treats at a local cafe, the botanical gardens followed by tea, etc. Your loved one wants your time and attention; experience gifts provide that.
If you have a group of people (family and/or friends) who gather and you don’t want to exchange gifts per se, you can do the Secret Santa thing or try the Yankee exchange. Hilarious and telling, a well done exchange can allow everyone to get something (agree on a dollar amount) without everyone trying to figure out what the others would like to have.
Modern family situations
With second and third and more marriages and children from different relationships, buying gifts for the kids can be especially troubling (typically one ex-spouse is better off financially than the other). The less-financially-comfortable parent cannot win this battle with her/his wallet. And do you really want to encourage your children to focus solely on their wants?
Break free from this by doing a lot of detective work when getting ideas for gifts for your kids so that you can find something unique and within your budget. Let these five words (“unique and within my budget”) be your guide.
What we envision and what we know/think/suspect our family and friends envision for the holidays can sometimes clash and this is why we experience such stress at the holidays. Meeting not only our own expectations but those of others can leave us feeling depleted (rather than inspired). If it is possible (and I know it’s not always possible), have a holiday game of “What I wish the holidays were like,” allowing every person her/his say. This could be very telling and help you all create new traditions that meet the emotional needs of everyone.
Food & drink
In most cultures, the holidays are defined not only by gifts but by the type and amount of food and drink. The type of food is easy, traditional fare gives the holidays the structure and nostalgia we all enjoy; it’s the amount that can be a problem. No one DARE run out of food and of course no one drinks the same kind of wine, beer, or soda so you may feel as if you MUST procure ten different versions of each. This is not necessarily enjoyable and can be very expensive. If you end up spending money you don’t have to appease certain family members, you’ll only end up resentful (especially if you end up not needing or using the leftover cans/bottles). Offer only what you want and can afford to offer. Uh Oh!! There it is….we don’t want anyone to know that we cannot always spend money on ten different kinds of soda. Think on that a bit.
Idea: Maybe find a good recipe for a punch (with and without alcohol) and make that your traditional holiday beverage.
“What can I do to help?”
“Oh … ahh….wait a miinute I just have to get this out of the oven…just make yourself comfortable…” as you scramble around your kitchen. My sister Jill came up with a great idea: Put each and every task on a sticky-note and put the notes on the inside of a cabinet or closet door. When anyone asks, direct them to the door with a “Thank you so much, pick a sticky note from that door.”