First off, I’d like to apologize for yesterday’s post goof. I accidentally hit “Publish” on an upcoming draft review of YNAB (well, the cat’s out of the bag), and while I caught it on my site and Twitter, I forgot to re-sync the RSS feed. So all of you who got a strange-looking post in your RSS reader and Inbox can blame that on me. Hopefully, that never happens again.
On to the topic at hand:
Millions of people this year will find themselves with a lot less money than last Christmas season, and a lot more motivation to stick with cash for their gift-buying.
No doubt–it’s 100% tough to break away from the consumerist culture so prevalent in our world today. And I don’t think a clean break is necessarily the best answer–after all, the spirit of Christmas is all about giving. (Okay, so the true spirit of Christmas is all about the birth of Jesus, but I think giving is a worthy goal and it doesn’t have to bankrupt you.)
I propose some other things you can give this holiday season that are much more frugal, but equally or more joyful. Here are five of my personal favorites and ones that our family has really focused on over the last few years:
Our entire family is doing Secret Santa this year. If you’re unfamiliar with the concept, everyone draws names from a hat. Without telling anyone else what name you’ve picked, you have to get a present for that person for Christmas. A dollar limit is set on the present.
When money’s tight, it doesn’t get much better than this. Everyone is guaranteed a present and each person only has to get one total present for the person they drew. It’s effective in reducing spending, it’s a lot of fun because it’s secret, and it takes the pressure off everyone to “perform” to some arbitrary gift-getting standard.
When most people think handmade, they think sweaters and other things we’ll never wear. On the contrary–handmade can be many things, all dependent on whatever talents you might have.
One of my friends is a very talented graphic artist. All day long, she’s working with colors, graphics, doodles, and all things art. It also happens to be what she loves to do. Does it not make perfect sense then that on several special occasions, we’ve received a custom-designed artistic “piece” from her? One year, it was my face on a superman cartoon, this year–it was a piece of art for our baby. Each time, it was perfect and memorable. Give her some love for her new product.
Don’t you have a talent you can use to make someone feel special this Christmas?
Many people have experienced an interesting revelation lately–why go through the trouble of picking out, unwrapping, and getting presents we don’t really like most of the time, when we can put everyone else’s money to much better use by giving to a charity we care about?
Charity: Water was certainly not the first to introduce the “charity birthday” concept, but they did help to popularize it. This Christmas, why not ask for $20 from everyone who was going to get you a gift? Then give the total as a huge donation to a charity you really like. Make a difference, feel great, and use everyone’s money for a great purpose.
I learned this one from my wife. As young kids, each day leading up to Christmas for almost all of December, everyone would help one person with something. So if Mondays were your days, you’d get help cleaning the kitchen, extra help with your homework, someone would cook you dinner, someone else would make your bed for you, etc.
It’s sort of like a birthday, but it goes on for the entire month! How great to have that much help with your chores every few days. Definitely brings the family closer and makes everyone feel a little more special.
Last, but definitely not least, the gift of an experience stands solidly as one of my favorite things to both gift and to get as a present during any time of year, but especially Christmas.
While it may not be as “practical” as a gift that keeps on giving (it’s usually a one-time thing), it’s great nonetheless. You get to experience the deep joy when opening the present, and re-experience and enhance that joy when you actually use the gift.
Experiences are fun an easy ways to give someone something new and unique that they have never tried before.
What’s Your Favorite Christmas Gift Alternative?
I’m looking forward to reading your favorite gift ideas! As extra incentive to share, I will select my favorite comment from this post, and–if you are a blogger–I will select a recent post from your archives to write up as a full-length commentary.
I haven’t done it in a while, and this is a great opportunity to increase your visibility!
Photo credit: alancleaver_2000