Christmas is near, and although I’ve shared my thoughts on the holiday and gift-giving on other sites, I haven’t really shared them here.
I wouldn’t consider myself a grinch, but I don’t enjoy Christmas for what it’s become. People are obsessed with buying the best presents and tend to forget why they’re giving them in the first place.
It’s sad that consumerism has taken most of the meaning away from holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas. I was over it the second I heard a radio advertisement refer to it as a “Thanksavings sale.” Please.
As a result, I’ve found myself pushing back against this idea that the holidays need to revolve around shopping and spending and possibly going into debt.
I only (usually) buy presents for my parents and my grandma, because they’ve spoiled me throughout my life, and I like to give back (and not just on this occasion!). And even then, I’m fine with a $50-$100 budget per person, mostly because I try and buy them things they wouldn’t splurge on for themselves.
However, now that I’m celebrating Christmas with my boyfriend’s family, which is much, much bigger than mine, I find myself returning to this philosophy on Christmas and gift-giving: why isn’t it enough to simply enjoy each other’s company?
Getting Past Deeply Rooted Traditions
Every time I bring that up, someone always counters with, “You need something under the tree to unwrap!!” Anything else is unacceptable.
I get that many of us grew up experiencing Christmas joy that way, but the magic doesn’t last…or, more accurately, the magic changes.
As a child, you want nothing more than to discover the surprises that lay under the tree. But as an adult, you want nothing more than a drama-free celebration where you get away from some of the craziness of work for a few days.
I don’t know about you, but unless you have some young ones in your family, you stop seeing the point in making a huge presentation out of presents under the tree. It’s just not the same. So why do it at all?
It seems impossible for some people to move past this deeply rooted tradition of having gifts to unwrap. That’s not the meaning of Christmas to me, yet it’s the focal point of how most people picture spending the holiday.
I’ve all but given up on suggesting it – there have only been two people that seem to agree with me; everyone else insists on giving something.
So if you have to exchange presents with people, here are the alternatives I’ve come up with that still fit into the spirit of the holiday, other than buying them something you know without a doubt they’ll love.
The Gift of Time
Honestly, I would rather receive someone’s time and attention rather than a material gift.
Time is so valuable – no one has enough of it these days – and the fact that someone would spend their precious time doing something with me means a lot more than the fact they picked something out for me and wrapped it.
In the article I referenced at the beginning of this post, I wrote about how I used to help my grandma bake for the holidays. She used to go all out – dozens upon dozens of different cookies – all in one day. It’s a lot of work and a lot of time spent on your feet, and she always appreciated the help. Plus, it was fun for me, as I got first dibs on my favorite cookies. ;)
She has since scaled back her efforts, but when I asked her what she wanted for Christmas this year, she replied with the simple answer I usually do: just your company.
That’s why I think it’s a fantastic idea to give back with your time rather than your money if you don’t have much of the latter.
I’m sure most of you have your shopping list done, but the next time you need to think of a gift for someone, why not think about an activity you can do together that means something to them?
If I have to receive a present, this is probably my favorite. I absolutely love getting crafts from friends and family that they clearly put a lot of time (and creativity) into.
This was the route I chose to go this year. With so many people to buy for, I decided to do something fairly simple: make ornaments for people.
I bought glitter, ornament balls, paint, wood ornaments, and got to work. I created the ornaments based on favorite color or favorite sports team (lots of football fans in this family!).
It was a joint effort between my boyfriend and I, and it was a fairly inexpensive project considering the alternative. Plus, we got to get back in touch with our creative side. We had a lot of fun coming up with different color combinations, and each one seemed to get prettier and prettier. I mean, who doesn’t like glitter?!
My other favorite gift to both receive and give is a practical one, because it’s not thoughtless and it’s something the person can actually use.
I know many people receive gifts that they barely use – that end up in the trash or donated in another year – and it’s disappointing. I want to avoid that as much as possible, which is why hand-made gifts or practical gifts are awesome.
Most people appreciate hand-made gifts, and most people won’t splurge on practical items for themselves.
For example, going back to my grandma, I got her a set of phones a few years ago. She kept saying her old phones didn’t work well – there was a lot of static and people kept going in and out. She was thrilled to get the new phones, and we set them up for her that night. She’s used them ever since.
Another example – I got a dust buster for my mom a few years ago after her old one died. It’s in her kitchen right now.
A practical gift I received from my parents was an Xbox Live subscription – good for one year, so I wouldn’t have to worry about it. (I don’t recommend gifting recurring subscriptions.)
This year, I’ve found myself asking for things for the house – we want a new ceiling fan, more shelving, a new sink faucet, and an electric tea kettle.
Pay attention to what people say they wish they had, in terms of practical, everyday items. Maybe something is on its way out, or maybe certain clothes or shoes are getting worn out and need to be replaced. If the people in your life are hesitant to buy things for themselves, it makes for a great gift opportunity.
Finally, the last gift alternative I can recommend is gifting experiences.
This can be as elaborate as a trip somewhere, or as simple as – again – spending time with someone.
For example, creating a scavenger hunt for them, going to an escape room, doing a day or weekend trip, brewing them a drink and sharing it with them over a fire, baking them a treat, playing a game with them, etc.
This is great for couples that are working toward more important financial goals and don’t want to spend a ton on gifts for each other. Suggest to your partner that you partake in an experience together instead.
If travel is one of your goals, plan a trip somewhere! As a bonus, if you can get away with it, ask for cash or gift cards to your favorite airline to fund your trip.
Find the Meaning in Christmas
Whatever you choose to do, try to do it in the spirit of the holidays. Don’t get caught up in one-upping someone’s gift, picking out any old present “that will do” because you have to, or being a total grinch and refusing to participate in anything.
There are so many ways to get in the holiday spirit without stepping foot inside a crazy store with equally crazy sales (that probably aren’t that good to begin with). Seek out those alternatives, and I think you’ll find yourself a little happier this holiday season.
What’s your philosophy on Christmas and gift-giving? Do you try and get people in on alternative gifts, or no gift-giving?