Would you like to make your holiday season a little less stressful and turn it a brighter shade of green? Would you like a season that focuses more on your relationships than your stuff? We have some advice that will help.
Making a List and Checking It Twice: Write down all of the names of people for whom you normally buy gifts. Is there someone on the list that you’d like to see more often? Instead of giving a gift, make arrangements to get together. Could someone on your list use company throughout the year? Avoid buying a gift and, instead, promise a monthly visit. Do you have adult family members on the list? Suggest a dinner together in lieu of gifts, donate to a charity that you select as a group, have a “white elephant” gift exchange, or draw names and buy for just one person. Remember, in most relationships, gift-giving is a two-way street. If you want to change the rules this year, communicate with friends and family members about your ideas and suggestions. They will probably be glad that you were brave enough to bring it up!
Don’t Break the Bank: Decide how much you plan to spend on holiday giving. Once you have a total, estimate a budget for each person on your list. Remember that the little extras, such as stocking stuffers and accessories, can add up. As you begin to shop, keep track of your receipts. Periodically evaluate how much you’re spending compared to the budget that you developed.
Priceless: Consider gifts of yourself and your time. These gifts improve your relationships, cost nothing, and create no waste. For example, you could offer to visit a friend and bring all the fixings for a homemade dinner—and then make it together. You might schedule a game or movie night for family or friends. You could offer to babysit for an evening or even a weekend. No children in the family? Offer to pet sit or house sit. Volunteer to clean up the yard in the spring or mow the lawn. The possibilities are endless.
Made With Love: Another way to give of yourself is to put your skills to work by making homemade gifts. If you preserve food or jams, give some away as gifts. Record a CD or DVD of a child’s performance or an “interview” that gets the child talking about friends, school, and activities, and send the recording to a far-off relative. Refresh a family memory by making your brother the cookies that Grandma used to bake. Decorate an old picture frame with fishing lures and add a photo of you and your grandpa fishing together. Put your old jewelry, clothes, and hats into an unneeded suitcase to create the perfect dress-up chest for a child. We’re sure you can think of many other ideas that reflect your own hobbies or honor the skills that a family member or friend passed along to you.
Experience the Drama: Do you have friends or relatives who love a certain sports team but don’t go to games very often? Give them tickets! Not a sports fan? Give tickets to a concert or play, a movie gift card, a museum membership, or park passes. If you have a friend who is interested in learning something new or becoming an expert on a favorite hobby, offer to pay for a class.
Know Thy Recipient: Waiting until the last minute to shop can lead to breaking the budget and choosing less-than-perfect gifts. When you are out of time, anything near a checkout seems “good enough.” However, a good-enough gift is likely to be unused. At best, it will be returned, re-gifted, sold, or given away. At worst, it will be forever unused and, eventually, thrown in the trash. Knowing what a friend or family member likes and dislikes, as well as knowing sizes and other essentials, can lead to thoughtful gifts that don’t waste your time and money or end up as trash. If you don’t have time to find a gift that will reflect the recipient, give a gift card instead.
Wrap It Up: Remember to wrap without waste. Reuse last year’s paper (and save this year’s for next year). Choose reusable gift bags. Decorate boxes that you use each year for the same person. Use fabric scraps, magazine pages, colorful brochures, or old maps to create unique wrapping “paper.”