Soon silver bells will be ringing and everyone will be singing, “Peace on earth! Goodwill to men!” Christmas really is a joyous time of year. A time we can gather with family and friends to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ who came to set mankind free from sin and death. We stoke fires, light candles, and imagine quiet, homey nights curled up on the couch with our favorite Christmas movie.
Even in the midst of a peaceful season it’s easy to get overwhelmed and stressed out about everything from cookie decorating, an overabundance of Christmas parties, which side of the family you’ll visit this year, and so on.
I don’t know about you, but one of the more stressful aspects of the holiday season for me is gift giving. I get stressed about what to give, the expectation to buy gifts, having to work within a budget, wondering whether people will even like their gifts, and on and on. On the receiving side, it can be easy to worry about grandparents over gifting, adding more toys, clothes, stuff to an already full house (the stress grows…), and fearing the children’s expectations of presents will only grow larger with the years.
Unfortunately, where gift giving should be a cheerful and willing part of Christmas it can be the greatest stressor of all. But what if we could make it simpler?
Over the last few years, I’ve begun to let go of some of my stressors and to change the way I think about giving gifts. I still have to remind my emotions the decision my mind made, but it’s a good change.
Here are four tips for making gift giving more of a joy, than a stress:
Keep the Amount of Presents Small
Limit the number of presents for each person. In our home we’ve adopted the something you want, need, wear, read, and eat rule. Five presents for each person. If I have time, the budget, and energy, I’ll try to find or make small stocking stuffer presents to meet that goal. More is less. More presents does not equal more love.
If your kids got five gifts they truly loved (they don’t have to be expensive) instead of 20 that are just alright, wouldn’t that be a huge payoff? Gifts that speak to who they really are, what they’re passionate it, and add to your family culture?
Focus on quality, not quantity. Let what you bring into your home bring life instead of more weight.
Make a Budget & a List
Sure, we’ve all heard this one, but how many of us actually make and stick to our budget at Christmas? It’s all too easy when we come across just one more cute thing so-and-so would love.
What’s helping me this year is I started a secret pinboard with gift ideas for our family writing the price in each pin. I’ve just pinned different things that someone has requested, shown interest in, or I think they might really enjoy.
In a separate document, I’ll list the ideas for each Something… category. For example, under Something You Want I might list four or five different things for a person. I’ll narrow them down to what I think the person would like the most and will add to our family culture. I’ll do that with each category.
From there I’ll take our budget as a starting point and see what gift ideas will keep us in our budget. It can be hard and sometimes I really want to splurge, but I think ‘In the long run, how is spending more on this gift going to help meet our families long-term goals?’ It’s a good reminder that even the best gift ideas may not be what our family really needs. It’s still feels a hard decision when you want to give your children good gifts, but a needed perspective.
What’s Your Why?
Know why you’re buying what you’re buying. Just because? You feel obligated? You think someone might love it? It was on sale?
Ask yourself, Is this gift in-line with our family culture?
Is this something the person even wants or is it something I want for them? (<–Guilty. Ouch.)
Does it back our parenting or schooling values? Will it enhance or hinder my child’s (or spouse/friend/relative) independence, growth, pursuit of freedom, joy and passion for learning and exploring?
Will it add to the clutter? Will the gift become more noise and nuisance, than joy?
If you’re a grandparent, aunt, uncle, stepparent, parent, or a friend, reading this please, please, please don’t just say “Oh, I’m the grandma (the great aunt, the whoever) I can do whatever I want.”
That only puts an undue burden on the family receiving the gift. Especially if you know that it would hinder or go against what the family is trying to build. A gift is suppose to be just that… a gift, not a show of power or one upmanship. If you don’t know the answer to these questions…then kindly ask. Let’s aim to be people who add to the joy and not stress, who strive to bring unity to our families even in hard situations.
Take responsibility as a giver to add life and blessing, not anxiety and discord.
Don’t be afraid to return presents.
If you get to the wrapping stage and realize you went overboard, just go back to the guidelines and goals you set for your family and evaluate what should stay and what should be returned.
It’s not something to be embarrassed about. Be proud that you recognized you made a decision you knew wasn’t going to help your family in the long-run and that you changed.
Our aim is to build families, not possessions.