5 Steps to Stress-Free Holiday Gift Giving
What do you get when you mix a media-saturated society with easy credit and the biggest holiday of the year? Pure chaos. We talk a good game in this country about simplifying the holidays, returning to a less material-focused celebration, and reducing our holiday-induced stress and consumption habits. But around October of each year the same thing happens — advertisers ramp up their messaging, expectations slowly grow, the familiar frenzy builds, and before it’s all over we’re left with empty wallets, full closets, and a nervous twitch that lasts til June.
There must be a better way. Maybe this year it’s time to draw a line in the sand and embrace a simpler idea of holiday gift-giving. Instead of racing to buy bigger, better, and more, we could reset our expectations, recalibrate our standards, and enjoy what we have more completely. If you’re ready to re-script your holiday, here are five steps to saner gift-giving. (See also: How My Hoarder Family Saved Christmas)
1. Set Limits
Without real or self-imposed limits, it’s much easier to fall victim to the pull of advertising and marketing. The lights, the music, the sales, the legions of shoppers spending like a Kardashian — it’s enough to loosen the wallets of even the most frugal among us. Set reasonable quantity and price limits per person, and stick to them.
2. Promote the Idea of Primary and Secondary Gifts
Some kids have an amazing knack for choosing the priciest toys and gadgetry without understanding the six-figure salaries and second mortgages such annual levels of gift-giving would require. Set expectations with kids about price and allow for one primary gift and a few secondary (i.e., lower cost) gifts or stocking-stuffers.
3. Choose a Charity
Few things in life can take the wind out of our consumerist sails like seeing true need. Choose a charity and donate your time and money (or both) throughout the year. It will help make every gift seem precious and inoculate you against the worst of the holiday shopping madness.
4. Finish Early
To avoid the most stressful holiday logistics, finish shopping early. Pledge to enter a mall in December only if George Clooney is manning a kissing booth or you’ve won a sweepstakes and have to pick up your prize in person. Spend your mall-free time organizing, wrapping, or doing something completely off-the-wall (like taking a nap).
5. Do Things Instead of Buying Things
In our hectic lives, time is the most valuable gift we can give and one that, delivered without expectations, can make the biggest impact. Break out the board games, play charades, build a snowman, or take a weekend trip with the whole family. Time together (with the advertisers muted and mall nowhere in sight) can calm frazzled nerves and help busy families reconnect.
Holidays don’t have to be the most stressful time of year — and we don’t have to let December be open season on our wallets and our savings accounts. This year, maybe it’s time to choose simplicity over stress, moderation over excess, and cash over credit. This holiday season there’s still time to scale back and take a big step away from the mall…I mean, unless George Clooney is doing that kissing booth thing.
Have you scaled back your holiday shopping this year? What strategies do you use to keep holiday gift-giving in-check?