I love to give the gift of time rather than an item for birthdays or holidays.
The holidays are a stressful time of year. There are parties to attend and throw, gifts to buy and wrap (and put on a credit card), decorations to buy and put up. There are cookies to bake, candy to cook and elaborate meal plans to execute. There are church functions, school plays and community events to attend. There is so much to do and it all costs so much, and it can be so overwhelming! The holidays can wreck the budget, just as surely as the stress can wreck your emotional well-being. But, this time of year does not have to stress us out to the max.
The holiday season does not have to be perfect. The house does not have to look like a magazine; it just needs to be warm and filled with people who love each other. The food does not have to be fancy; it just needs to be prepared with love. The gifts do not have to be elaborate; they just need to be examples of thoughtfulness and caring.
Give practical gifts
I had always been a big fan of practical gifts, to the point where I once gave toilet paper as part of my gift when my best friend got her first apartment (Also included where all of the cleanings supplies she’d need while getting established). While toilet paper is far from an acceptable gift, practical gifts can be classy and thoughtful gifts that are affordable for the giver and save money for the recipient. For example, for a coffee lover who can only afford Maxwell House, buy a pound of good coffee from the local coffee roaster. Buy a box of their favorite granola, which is often a rare treat.
Alternatively, perhaps give a box of fancy crackers and a really good cheese. Give a bottle of a higher-end shower gel or lotion that they love but can’t afford to buy on a regular basis. These gifts are relatively affordable to give, and the receiver gets to feel pampered for days or weeks as they enjoy the gift. Not only that but since the gift is consumable, it leaves nothing to clutter up the house or collect dust.
Give the gift of time
Many of us find ourselves disconnected from those we love. We reach out through text messages and social media to keep in touch with those that matter most to us, but don’t take the time to experience life with them. Because of this, it is common for us to feel lonely. For this reason, I love to give the gift of time rather than an item for birthdays or holidays.
Instead of giving my mom a gift, she may not need, want, or use, I gave her the gift of a whole day. I took her and my dad to Amish country. I brought bakery apple fritters for breakfast, got coffee, treated them to lunch at my favorite Amish restaurant, and took them to antique stores, thrift stores, and flea markets. We got to take in the beautiful scenery, enchanting culture and had a lot of good conversations and lots of laughs. It was great for all of us and didn’t cost all that much. I would have had to spend much more money to give a gift that had the same impact.
For the holidays, this year look for opportunities to give the gift of time, whether to an aging parent or grandparent, a child who is growing up way too fast, a spouse who misses you during the daily grind, or a best friend you do not connect with often enough. Give a card with the promise of the event of your choosing, on a date that works for both of you. Some ideas are a hike at a favorite park, complete with a nice picnic lunch, a trip to the beach, a day trip to a fun antiquing destination, a day spent baking delicious goodies, or a visit to a museum of particular interest for the recipient. These gifts do not take up space, don’t generate waste in production, packaging or wrapping, and create memories that can last a lifetime.
Do less; make it mean more
We all get caught up in wanting to make the holidays perfect. Unfortunately, between all of the things we have to do, from buying and wrapping gifts to decorating, from baking to throwing parties, we end up stressed, burned out, frustrated, tired, and ready for the holidays to be over.
Instead of trying so hard to do everything needed to make a perfect holiday, do less, just make it mean more of baking a hundred dozen cookies to give to everyone you know,
make two dozen with your kids and decorate them together. Instead of having a posh party with everyone you know, have your five or six closest friends over for a nice meal. Instead of taking the family out for a night at the zoo to see the lights display (with $15/person entrance fee), take a long hike through a snowy woods, then head home for mugs of steamy hot cocoa. Take a walk with the kids to collect pine cones to use as decorations (Bonus points for decorating them with the kids as a fun and frugal craft). You’ll create the memories that make the holidays special, without the stress and frustration that makes many people blue during the holidays.
The holidays should not be a killer to your budget or your emotional well-being. Sometimes the simple things in life are the most pleasant. This year, give yourself permission to not have the most spectacular holiday ever. Allow yourself to remain present and connected with those you love and enjoy your best holiday yet.
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