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Christmas time is coming and it’s my favorite time of the year. I love the lights, decorations, and parties. The celebrations bring people together, maybe for the only time in the year.
It’s also when retailers start salivating, anticipating crazed shoppers grabbing as much as they can hold. For e-tailers, the online ads and Black Friday emails have already started rolling in.
In light of money management, we should take the consumerism down a few notches this year. Back when malls were the popular shopping venue, I remember reading an article about post-Christmas overload. The mom recounted that the mall puked on her living room floor. Her kids didn’t know what to play with first. Her regrets led to a personal promise of a different Christmas Future.
I know how much fun it is to watch kids unwrap gifts. Sometimes, they’re so excited they mean to throw the wrapping paper in the air but instead throw the gift in the air and hold on to the paper. Parents like to give and give, maybe giving more than they got when they were growing up. That makes Mom and Dad feel better about themselves, but overindulgence isn’t always necessary. Even children, the little wanting scamps that they are, value relationships more than things. You’ve never heard anyone say that they didn’t get enough toys when they were growing up.
To make Christmas more meaningful, perhaps you could try personalizing your gift list. If you’ve been listening to what people tell you about their personal preferences, chances are they’ve mentioned something that they really like – and it’s inexpensive. Apply a little intuition and you’ll avoid the usual mainstream junk. You know, the stuff that looks nice in a wrapped package but doesn’t get used. Then it clogs some drawer or gets re-gifted to someone else. Hey, it happens.
You’ll be surprised at the reactions when you give something that has a personal attachment. I once gave someone a 3-box variety of chai tea bags and it brought her to tears. She appreciated that I thought of her special preference of tea. When she opened the gift, she immediately threw her drink away and made herself a fresh cup. She went to my husband and said, “She remembered…”
Another acquaintance was celebrating a birthday around the time we were getting together. I didn’t want to show up empty-handed, so I picked up a small box of Ferraro Rocher chocolates. For a small investment in happiness, her reaction was priceless.
I encourage dual-intention gifts this year. Enrich your personal bonds while managing expenses. You don’t want to be left under a mudslide of credit card bills after the wrapping paper heroine-high fades. And you’ll be remembered for your consideration.
Here are some ideas to spread happiness and not have debt nausea. These are meaningful gifts that won’t destroy your financial goals. Mix and match a few of the following, chip in if necessary.
Grocery store gift cards – Grandma doesn’t need another knick-knack. But she would probably love a gift card to her local supermarket. See if you can snag a discounted gift card.
First aid kit
Emergency kit (for car or home)
Home Depot gift card
A month-long or year-long supply of any personal necessity – think diapers, razors, toothbrushes, eye drops, hair products, body lotion, body wash, pet food, etc.
How-to books on a favorite hobby
How Ally Found Her Financial Freedom – my book on financial planning basics and how the main character went from confusion to clarity.
Jake’s Financial Transformation – my e-book on a young man’s path to financial maturity.
Activity sets – Combine a gift with an opportunity to connect with a child. Getting a child an activity kit that can be done while spending time together is two gifts in one. This is another way of encouraging siblings to bond.
Offer to pay for cleaning services
Offer to babysit
Buy a night out
Restaurant gift card
Dave & Buster’s gift card
Gourmet foods, such as, snacks, cheese, coffee, spices, or olive oil.
Frozen Bantam Bagels – cream cheese-stuffed bagel holes that are so good they should be illegal. They now make stuffed pancakes. I can’t take it. Choose from many flavors and buy a 3-dozen frozen batch.
Massage gift card
Mani/Pedi gift card
Be remembered all year long
Monthly magazine subscription
Monthly gift club – They’re all out there: craft beer club, plant club, jewelry club, snack club, fruit club. To control expenses, limit the months.
Give a gift that keeps on giving
Buy a young person stock in a dividend reinvestment plan. Don’t stop there – encourage them to keep depositing their part-time job earnings. Because many accounts require $100 or $250 to open an account, this one may not fall into the inexpensive category, however, it’s a gesture that invests in the future. See DRIP advice.
Decorative wine glass – see www.etsy.com
Friendship items – Femail Creations
Motion-activated toilet bowl light – Amazon link
One final point: limit the “Merry-Christmas-To-Me” gifts to one. I’m guilty of this one, for sure.