Christmas has become a retail festival with a CONSUMERISM mindset… and it shouldn’t be.
Christmas should be joyous, a time to relax and spend quality time with the people that we care about…. but it causes some people unhappiness, debt , and anxiety.
Many people this season will feel obligated to buy gifts for friends, extended family, coworkers, our even our kid’s teachers… that they may not even use! Many people will buy these useless gifts with money they don’t have and cause themselves stress they don’t need.
I think that one of the reasons for this completely insane mindset is that we have disconnected with what a gift is in the first place. A gift is something given without an expectation of anything in return. It is given because we want to bless or benefit someone else. We want to benefit the other person, because we WANT to, not because we feel obligated to. We want to benefit the other person without expecting that they are going to benefit us in return. We are receiving the gift of joy simply by knowing that we blessed another person, hence why you feel good even when your gift is completely anonymous.
“A gift is something given WITH JOY and WITHOUT AN EXPECTATION of ANYTHING in return.”Lindsay Plumb – Founder of the Pretty Money Club
If we do not consider gifts in this manner, then Christmas becomes a zero-sum game. I give to you and you feel obligated to give back to me at a similar value. This becomes a numbers game where we are trying to end up with 0 obligation to each other. Lets pretend I spend $25 on a scarf for you, because I care about you and I know that you will be out in the cold often this winter… and you don’t have a scarf. I give you the scarf with joy in my heart because I have budgeted money for gift giving and I genuinely want to bless you. I tell you that you are in no way obligated to return the favor. You trust that I am being sincere and accept the gift without feeling obligated to gift back to me. Fantastic. Unfortunately, it often does not go this way.
“For it is in giving that we receive.”Saint Francis of Assisi
A more common scenario would be this: I buy you a $25 scarf because it’s Christmas and I felt like I should get you something, so I grabbed one I saw on my frenzied shopping spree, even though I didn’t budget for it. I give it to you without explaining that there is no obligation attached to the gift. You really didn’t need a new scarf, but since I bought you one, you now feel obligated to buy me something of equal value. You spend $25 on me, instead of putting the money toward something else that you actually needed: new boots. After Christmas, I am anxious because I have spent more than I intended and I’m not paying interest on my credit card, and you mis-prioritized your spending money because you bought me a gift instead of putting that money towards new boots. And now your toes are still getting wet because of those holey boots.
IT’S TIME TO STOP THE MADNESS.
I think it is time for us to get off this gift giving trend. The best gift is releasing others from the obligation of having to give to you in the first place! Lets work together to ban unnecessary Christmas presents. I’m not telling you to skip gift-giving altogether. Go on and get your spouse that thing you know they’ve been dying for. Get a few presents for the kids to see their smiling faces on Christmas Day when they spy the sparkly boxes under the tree. But don’t let that list of people grow beyond your means. You may be embarrassed to raise this point, but most people feel the same way, so you’ll likely be doing them a HUGE favor.
Okay, so what about the people in your life that you know are going to give you stuff, because you know they want to. Your parents, for example?
If you do have generous people in your life that really want to bestow a gift upon you, it would be doing them a huge service to tell them what would really benefit you. For example, let’s say I had money budgeted for Christmas and I decided that I wanted to really bless my sister. So I go out and buy her that expensive hair straightener she was talking about last week. I give her the gift on Christmas and she opens it, with a stunned expression on her face. I think she loves it, but in her mind she is actually thinking “Oh my gosh… we could really use that money for groceries. Things are so tight… what would she think if I returned it ?” I would ABSOLUTELY want her to tell me that. If she returned it to get herself something that really helped her… awesome.
What about your kids? How many times have they received toys that they play with for like, 2 days… then they lose the charger, break it, or just plain lose interest? What if instead of those material things, they got a pass to the pool? How awesome would that be? Be bold! Be brave! TELL the close people in your life what it is you and your kids really want or need.
Let’s all make a pact together, right here, right now.
We shall NOT give gifts beyond that for which we have budgeted.
We shall give budgeted gifts with joy and without ANY expectation.
We shall NOT give gifts out of feeling obligated.
We shall be BOLD and tell the world all about our pact… inspiring others out of their anxiety and encouraging generous gifters to give gifts that are actually useful!
PS: If you have a habit of over-spending at Christmas, get on top of your budget this year by joining me for my 5 Day Budget Makeover Series. You’ll learn how to set money aside for next Christmas, so that you have cash in hand rather than grabbing that credit card! AND you’ll be invited to join a Facebook Group full of people who are doing the same!
PPS: If you need help tracking your purchases this Christmas so that you DON’T blow the budget, use my FREE tool: the Holiday Spend Tracker! You can put it right on the home screen of your phone so when you buy something you log it right away.