It seems impossible, but Christmas is almost here again! They say life is like a toilet paper roll. The closer you get to the end, the faster it goes! I hope I am not near the end, but the years are most definitely flying by (and I am pretty sure I say that every single year). With Christmas comes so many emotions – excitement, stress, and grief to name a few. We feel warm as we remember the joy of childhood holidays and a rush of sadness as we long for those days again.
Part of the excitement of Christmas is, of course, exchanging gifts. For some, this is nothing but a chore. Others look forward to it all year. For children, it is the best part of the entire year. Into which of the following categories do you fall? Love Christmas shopping or hate it passionately? Deal with gift exchanges or moderately look forward to them? Primarily a giver or primarily a receiver? Budgeter or free spender?
We all approach Christmas with different motivations, and that is okay. Ultimately, what matters is being together. But, if you love to (or feel you must) give gifts this time of year, I hope the lessons which I have learned will inspire you, de-stress you, or at least resonate with you. ~smile~
- It is not about me. What?! It’s not?! Yes, just because I like the elephant book ends does not mean my sister-in-law wants them; and, just because I still love stuffed animals does not mean Mom wants a new furry friend every holiday season. If I like something, perhaps I should get it for myself and buy gifts my friends and family actually want.
- Not all giving is pure. Many of us are guilty of giving gifts for reasons other than unsullied love and affection. Sometimes, our anger shows through the thoughtlessness of our gifts. Other times, we spend too much on a gift to make a good impression; and, it is not unheard of to give a gift for the purpose of gaining love rather than giving If I buy my cousin this expensive dress, maybe she will see how much I love her and want to spend more time with me. We should question our motives before we shop.
- Pay attention to personality. About five years ago, I went all out for Eric’s birthday. Since he loves Thailand and Thai food, I decided to create a Thai themed birthday celebration. For months, I purchased Thai gifts – a Thai flag, Thai pants, a Thai frog musical instrument, a Thai children’s book, and other Thai items I forget. ~smile~ Eric opened his gifts and probably tried to look happy, but the disappointment on his face was unmistakable. When I asked him what was wrong, he hesitantly explained that the gifts did not reflect his personality. They seemed more like the type of gifts I would appreciate (i.e., more sensory than intuitive). Apparently, this was a repeating theme and after ten years, he could not hide his disappointment anymore. It was a punch in the gut after the time and effort I put into his birthday, but it was a memorable lesson. Since then, I have tried to improve. Before purchasing a gift, weigh it against what you know about the person. This birthday was one of the reasons we wrote Gift Giving by Personality Type. Check it out!
- Listen and take note. Even the quietest among us will occasionally light up at the sight of a book, game, or knick knack. Listen to your friends, family, and (especially) significant other talk about what they enjoy; and, if their body language changes when they see something sparkle in the store window, take note!
- Maybe it does not have to be an item at all? Every year, my father-in-law tells his kids, “I don’t want any gifts,” and every year, we completely ignore him. ~smile~ His plea is understandable, though. As life passes by, clutter starts to take over and people want fewer things and more time or experiences. He would rather go skiing with his boys than unwrap another festive mug. Instead of adding to the clutter this year, consider giving something other than a physical gift – or give a physical gift they can cash in for an experience (e.g., gift card to a nice restaurant, tickets to an event, babysitting coupons, etc.).
- Avoid scrambling. Shop all year. People can tell when you throw something in a gift bag without giving it much thought. We budget a certain amount of gift money each month so I can shop for birthdays, Christmas, and other miscellaneous events whenever the desire strikes. When I see a nice gift item, I buy it and have it ready for the next holiday. This method frees you up for stress-free shopping. And, while everyone else is out throwing junk into a cart on December 23rd, you can stay home in your pajamas, drink hot chocolate, and watch Christmas movies. Keep an spreadsheet with the names of everyone you shop for, and if it is helpful, budget an amount of money per person. Check off names as you finish!
- Avoid over giving. When exchanging gifts, consider the people involved and the event. If your family does a gift exchange, and you know it is financially taxing on some, be more modest with your gifts. If you give large ticket items and they can only afford small tokens, that can be embarrassing and stressful for them. Also, when you consider what to buy for specific people, think about the phase of life they are in or the financial situation they are facing. A young family with five children is not likely to have as much discretionary income as a newlywed couple with two incomes. Give gifts which do not draw attention to the differences in your financial states. In some cases, it is also perfectly fine to agree not to exchange gifts. When I suggested this to a friend ten years ago, her response was, “Praise God!” ~smile~
- Be aware of limitations. Recently, I found a sweet-smelling lotion I picked up for a friend’s daughter. She loves cake pops, so when Bath and Body Works came out with a cake pop fragrance, I grabbed it. Then I thought, “Oh man, this smell might be too heavy for her mom.” Sure enough, I had my friend sniff it and she apologetically confirmed my thoughts. Candles and perfumes might be ideal for some friends but overpowering to others. A large piece of artwork might go well in your aunt’s living room but be far too big for your sister’s den.
- Consider love languages when gift-giving. For your quality time person, consider concert tickets or a carriage ride – something you can do together. For your acts of service person, give chore coupons. For your words of affirmation person, write a poem about how much you love him or her and frame it. Be creative and think outside the traditional box.
- Some of the best gifts come at random times. Personally, I thoroughly enjoy giving presents at Christmas. Others, not so much. Christmas can seem like a time of forced giving. Yeah, we are not really all that close, but since you are my brother’s girlfriend, here is a pair of pink driving gloves. If you would rather, avoid Christmas shopping and give surprise gifts throughout the year as the urge hits you. Recently, I saw an inexpensive art kit I thought my friend would like, so I shipped it to her and she received it on a random Monday. Unexpected gifts are so much fun!
Yes, Christmas is on its way and the child in me is looking forward to it. My little cousins playing on the floor with their new treasures. The adults laughing and relaxed (thankful to be done shopping). Watching Eric’s reaction as he opens his yearly ornament – a tradition we started a few years ago! Mom’s enthusiastic thank yous. Watching kids ride their new bikes. It is a precious time.
What are you looking forward to most about this year? Which gift are you most excited to give? How can you make this holiday extra special for someone you love?
Happy shopping (or not shopping) to you all. We hope this Christmas is your best one yet!
Which gift-giving lessons have you learned over the years?