Since Christmas is fast approaching, we wanted to take some time to talk gifts. That’s what the holiday is all about, right?
I think almost all of us (even the Whos in Whoville) would agree that that is not the case. Yet our actions — and the commercials the last 3 months of the year — seem to indicate otherwise.
As I was researching to find out what the average family spends at Christmas, every story I found talked about the increased level of spending year-over-year as positive. I’m sure it is better for the economy for people to outspend themselves, but is it really good?
Americans estimate they’ll spend $781 at Christmas this year.* I budget $180.
It’s not about the numbers, though. If I had children, I’d undoubtedly choose to spend more. Gift giving is good: God is a gift giver, graciously giving us what we don’t deserve.
No matter how much you spend, Christmas is not worth going into debt over. Especially when you consider how many gifts end up in closets, lining Goodwill’s shelves or in landfills.
That said, here are the principles I use to guide my gift giving:
Budget for Christmas throughout the year. I budget $15 each month for Christmas. This also allows me to spend it early when I find a good deal, since I don’t have to wait for a bonus or a special credit card offer.
Focus on gifts that encourage accumulation of experiences, not possessions. I love giving games, for example. This is something I want to get more creative with in the coming years.
Gifts that require your time are more valuable than those that require your money. One of my favorite gifts each year is reading and recording books for my niece and nephew. I’m reading The Chronicles of Narnia for Bean and Roald Dahl books for Peanut, giving them a new installment each year. They’re still too young to appreciate it, but I hope they find it precious as they grow up.
Avoid gifts that require batteries, especially for kids. My niece and nephew get enough of those already; I want to stimulate their imaginations and grow their view of the world. Books are great, as are puzzles, blocks, art supplies and imaginative play items.
Try to have all your gifts ready by Thanksgiving. I’m not always good at this one, but I find the holiday season more enjoyable when this is done. Shopping early also discourages overspending, as I’m not just buying whatever I can find that works. For gifts that I buy, I love to shop online as I’m much better about considering purchases without the distractions of other shoppers and items.
Don’t give a gift just because you think they’re going to give a gift to you. Obligation gifts feel like obligations to both involved. Give gifts as an expression of love.
Tomorrow, Amanda will talk about how she and her family handle gift giving. If I’m lucky, maybe I’ll find out what I’m getting for Christmas this year, right?
Photo by Jennifer C.
* “Americans’ Initial Christmas Spending Estimate Is Positive”, http://www.gallup.com/poll/178859/americans-initial-christmas-spending-estimate-positive.aspx .