How can you be generous if you’re secretly worried about paying your bills?
How can you really enjoy the holidays when you’re emotionally overwhelmed and feeling undone?
Our own joyful budgeter Mari McNeil presented this very challenging subject and the group’s participation did not disappoint.
Thankfully, not everyone agreed! That may sound odd but to be honest, I’d be surprised if everyone did because the holidays (relationships + money + expectations) can create unique emotions that most of us would prefer to avoid or ignore. And, of course, we all have our own lens on the world.
Mari started the conversation by asking us all to share one simple thing that makes us happy during the holidays.
Responses here were quite similar: The special music/ food/ decorations, gathering, going to church and participating in giving to charity and/or showing extra kindnesses.
Then she asked what we would like to change about the holidays. Most answers revolved around the theme of “More time” to actually enjoy the holidays and “Fewer demands and expectations.”
Mari asked us, “Do you remember when it wasn’t like this?”
Indeed, most of us do.
Someone mentioned, “It’s because we didn’t have the money” (to spend) and another participant replied, “I don’t think most people have the money now, either, they just put it on credit.” Things that make you go, “Hmmm.”
- What was the best gift you received last year?
Don’t feel bad if you couldn’t recall, most could not.
- What was the best gift you gave last year?
Once again, few could recall anything spectacular.
There was lots of conversation about how gifts get re-gifted, put out for the garage sale, donated, returned, or thrown into the landfill. This is potentially because some of us are imposing our tastes (and expectations) onto the recipient of our gift. The result is that we’re paying a price financially, emotionally and environmentally.
How can we rethink this time of year both financially and practically?
Mari suggested that we approach this time of year intentionally and mindfully (this helps you develop clarity and motivation), to think about how to express generosity in a way that works, and then create a plan. Moreover, you have to be brave enough to start a new conversation about the topic.
One participant shared that her family doesn’t do the traditional Christmas gifts; during the year, whenever you really needed or wanted something, they bought it for each other exclaiming, “Today is Christmas” and then simply enjoying each other’s company during the actual holiday. How lovely!
Mari generously offered us many gift alternatives to consider such as:
- giving experiences (vacations, hosting a walk in the woods with a winter picnic of cocoa and other treats, a painting class etc.), consumables, and home-made gifts
- adopting a family (invite those who don’t have holiday plans to come for dinner) and/or a charitable cause (you can buy someone in a third world country a cow, a chicken, or a well for fresh water)
- performing acts of service (perhaps with your family and/or friends) a/k/a 12 days of random acts of kindness
- writing a letter telling that person what you remember and admire most about them
- giving used/gag/funny gifts
Have you read the book, The 5 Love Languages? It will likely help you identify what you would most like to receive and what others are likely to desire to receive.
If you’re looking for additional resources and inspiration, check out:
- Facebook group (and blog) The Non-Consumer Advocate
- Mr. Money Mustache
- http://www.becomingminimalist.com/simple-christmas-links/ and
- http://www.charitynavigator.org for charities that give gifts of chickens, goats and more to needy people in developing countries.
If you’d like to be notified of the support group meetings and/or to receive my quarterly newsletter, simply email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.