We live in a day and age where exchanging gifts has become synonymous with “the holidays.” This kind of unspoken expectation can put a great amount of stress on individuals and families who do not have the financial resources to afford gifts. And, some will even opt out of attending holiday gatherings altogether due to not being able to participate in gift exchanges. If you’re contemplating that, stop. Don’t spend the holidays alone. Remember your presence means more than any gift ever will. Keep the following things in mind as you’re contemplating how to proceed with gift exchanges this year:
1) Set a limit and stick to it
Have a conversation with your loved ones about your financial situation. Set a limit, communicate this limit, and stick to it without feeling guilty. Remember, your limit can be whatever feels right for you – even if that’s no gifts at all. Expect people to test your limits. Respond with compassion, but be firm. Do not force yourself into excessive (or any) debt this holiday season for a gift that is bound to be forgotten in a few months anyway – while you’ll still be paying off your credit card bill.
2) Shop online
Even if you have money, going into any store this time of year can immediately raise your blood pressure. Shop online to avoid high stress situations, like the Wal-Mart parking lot, this holiday season. This way you can take your time, think through your purchases, search for the best deals, and avoid the trap of unnecessary spending. You’ll also avoid that pesky sales person asking you to open yet another credit card to save 20%!
3) Get creative
Remember that not all gifts cost a lot of money. Think about your talents and use them to create a thoughtful gift for your loved ones. Maybe your cookies are the first to go during the holidays – bake an extra dozen and wrap them up for your boss. Have a sister who can’t stop talking about the vacation she took last May? Print off one of her photos to frame and place it under the tree. Think about creating your own book to give to a loved one, listing the things you love about them or containing a bunch of “coupons” for things you can do later. Even the kids will like this one – imagine unwrapping a “get-out-of-chores” coupon book!
4) Remember what’s really important
Don’t lose sight of what’s really important this holiday season. Focus on the things you have and the things you can do. Express gratitude for those things and share your gratitude with loved ones. To quote Dr. Seuss’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas (one of my all-time favorite stories): “Maybe Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more!”
I’d love to hear about the ways you’re getting creative with gift-giving this holiday season! Send me a quick e-mail with your ideas!