Now that we’re full swing into the year-end gift-giving holidays I find more and more of my friends and clients are stressed about the one aspect of these holidays that is supposed to make us feel good – the giving of gifts. People worry that they’re spending too much over-all, while simultaneously fretting that each individual gift is too little (either in cost or significance). This constant battle of the wallet vs. “what statement a gift makes” is seriously tainting these “happy holidays.”
I fondly cite one of my many favorite Friends episodes where Joey challenges Phoebe to find a truly selfless act. While she prides herself on being a “giving” person because it makes others feel good, Joey is quick to point out that she ultimately enjoys giving because it makes HER feel good – which in essence is a selfish act.
I too like being selfish in this arena. I love giving gifts to my loved ones because it DOES make me feel good, especially when I know that the gift is something they will likely use, enjoy, and appreciate AND because I don’t stress myself out over the gift. I understand that what makes a good gift is not how much it costs, but how well-chosen it is for the person receiving it. Even the smallest of gifts, if thoughtful, are usually more cherished than an expensive item. I have earrings that cost $1 that a best friend gave me 25 years ago that I still wear and love to this day – because they are very “me” (my style) and because they remind me of our time spent together when we young and broke.
The other important aspect of stress-free gift-giving is to remember that for most of us we are not giving just to receive something back, and most likely neither are our friends. “I do not give to get.” (In fact I have to admit that I get more joy from giving than I do from receiving.) Also, just because someone can afford to buy a gift doesn’t mean that a homemade gift or a “voucher” to do something together at another time has any less value or impact. Often it has more, for what is one of the universal best gifts we can all give each other? Time spent together!
When I was in my young and single and living on a shoe-string budget, I made most of my holiday gifts. I made candles, candlesticks, soaps, hand-painted wine-glasses, and other items — purchasing all supplies needed at dollar-stores. All my friends loved these gifts and even lamented that they wished they had been creative instead of shopping.
So if money’s tight, consider a home-made gift, or a “gift certificate” promising to see a movie together, or that you’ll cook a meal for them, or simply have a night out at a time when you’re more flush. No one wants their friends or loved ones to be stressed this time of year. Year end holidays are about money and gifts – they’re about taking time to count your blessings, and be appreciative of your family, friends, and health (hopefully).
Remind your children (and yourself) that the holidays are not about getting a bunch toys and gifts. What ultimately makes us all happy is simply spending quality time together be happy. Kids need love and memories of time spent with stress-free parents way more than they need the latest gadget. Remember also, that love and thought-fullness is the best gift we can all give to each other and ourselves!
We all know that certain times of year there seems to be not enough time to get everything done. December is most certainly the busiest time of year (I even missed posting a blog last week because of my commitments and chores). I listen to my clients grumble that they have to go buy this, or committed to bake that, and they can’t make their training sessions because they promised the kids they’d take them ice skating though they “haven’t the time or energy.”
But something I have learned in my quest to maintain a martyr free life is that no matter how busy, no matter how many things you think need to be done, there is always time to stop and smell the gingerbread! The Holidays are supposed to be a time of joy, not stress and forced smiles.
Ultimately all any of us really want is to spend time together in a relaxed atmosphere, enjoying a cup of hot-cocoa (always quick and easy to make) and just sharing good times. Even kids would rather have your attention at home playing a card game, than ice skating if it means that you are uptight and irritated by the crowded (and often expensive) ice rink experience.
Traditionally, the holidays were a time when families gathered to enjoy the comfort of a warm home, a hearty meal, and laughter around the table. Simple, and often homemade gifts were exchanged, and most importantly the holiday period itself was 2 days (Christmas Eve and Christmas Day). Now we suffer the onslaught of holiday regalia and commercialism starting as early as October! The pressure is on to buy, bake, decorate, celebrate goes on for way too long!
So I say step off the holiday bullet-train. None of this really matters in the long run. Life goes on, friendships continue, and a life less stressed is worth more than the gratitude of that gift you hastily purchased in a crowded mall when your budget was already shot.
Short on time, money or ideas for gifts – give homemade cards that offer a “lets go see a movie together in the new year” or an invitation to “dinner at our house next month,” etc. Give your kids arts & crafts gifts that you will make with them during the school break. Stay home and just be with your loved ones.
As for me I make the following promises to myself every year:
- I’ll make time for the gym but I won’t worry about my calories
- I will give thoughtful but affordable gifts and won’t worry about if I’ve given enough
- I will remember that Christmas dinner does not need to be an exhausting production – just put a turkey in a roasting bag, throw some veggies in a casserole dish, and pour lots of wine.
In the end if will be the relaxed fun around the table that my guests will remember and they will know I love them — which is all anyone really wants at the Holidays!