T’is the season for getting together with family and friends, celebrating, and, inevitably, spending more money than you anticipated on everyone from your children to the mail carrier. Does it seem like every year there are more people on your gift-buying list? The list gets longer and the gifts pricier as we unknowingly “outdo” one another year after year. And there are always those people who are impossible to buy gifts for. You agonize for hours over what they might possibly want.
It’s no wonder why “bah humbug” is a popular phrase this time of year. Even if you don’t celebrate Christmas, you probably get swept up in the gift-giving frenzy in some way or another. It’s hard to escape. But here’s how you can drop the expectations of gift giving, once and for all.
Set Specific Limits
Holiday gift-giving doesn’t have to be stressful. You just need to set some limits so that you don’t go down the rabbit hole of consumption. The sales get louder and longer every year, but you can resist them if you have a guide to follow.
Start by listing the most important people you want to buy a gift for. As you go down the list, begin to reduce the priority. If there is any question whether or not you “need” to buy a person on your list a gift, cross their name off and stop adding names. Then, take a long and hard look at the list. Can you cross a few more names off? Anyone on the list who is there simply because they buy you a gift every year, cross off their name. You’ll learn how to handle them next.
Once you have a short-and-sweet list, decide how much you want to spend on each person so you can stick to your budget. You don’t necessarily have to spend more on the people with highest priority. Either set a range or a top price—that way, you’ll give yourself some wiggle room.
Establish a “No Gifts” Rule Ahead of Time
For those people who you would rather not buy a gift for, it’s simple—you don’t have to buy them a gift. But instead of dreading the moment when you come up empty-handed as they hand you a fancy-wrapped box of toiletries (or whatever re-gift you usually receive), establish a “no gifts” rule ahead of time.
To do this, reach out to the person and let them know that you’re doing a holiday gift cleanse. You don’t want to buy or receive any gifts this year except with your immediate family. Tell them that your gift is the freedom of not having to spend time choosing, buying, and wrapping a gift for yet one more person. You will likely be pleasantly surprised that most people will also feel relief by establishing this rule. (It’s a good birthday gift rule, too, if you want to take it even further at other times of the year.)
Don’t Buy Stuff—Create Experiences
Most of us have everything we need—and so much more. We fill our homes, and garages, and storage units with more and more stuff, most of which we use for a moment or two and then toss it aside.
We think that all this stuff will give us happiness, but that’s not the case. Instead, we derive true happiness from the experiences in our lives. If you really want to give a meaningful gift, create an experience. You could even create a coupon book that your family members can redeem for a night on the town, a week without doing dishes, or simply a good hug. It’s like those cute little coupon books your kids created in preschool. They can work for anyone. Just get creative and think about what the person would really enjoy.
The emotional and financial pressure we put on ourselves this time of year is unnecessary. You don’t have to succumb to the over-consumption madness that has become the holiday season. Get back to basics this year.