Presents, gifts, expectations.
I’m going to warn you upfront, some of you may find this post contentious, but I make no apology for what I’m about to write, because buying presents to exchange at Christmas is for many people the task that causes the most stress and heartache:
- What do you get for the child who has everything?
- What do you get for the person who has said they don’t want anything, but you know they still want to open a gift on the day, otherwise they’ll sit in martyrdom for the rest of the holidays?
- How much should you spend on someone you have to buy for, but don’t particularly want to?
With the advent (pun intended) of online auction sites, from Christmas Day afternoon unwanted gifts that have been sweated over by the giver (too much, too little, too plain, too fancy, or just not their thing) are already being listed to be sold, making the gif-tee a little profit if their present sells.
Aside from being ungrateful and rude, two things which infuriate me, the whole season is about goodwill and sharing, not about presents! It’s just become about ‘stuff’ because we’ve been steered that way by marketing and advertising. This week I want you to think about who you’re buying for, if your list is apparently ever-growing, please think about these questions to ask your family and friends to curtail expectations and expenses:
- If you have a large family, what about a Kris Kringle / Secret Santa where you decide on an amount to spend, draw a name out a hat and buy for that person, not their siblings or parents. A variation on Kris Kringle, only buying books as gifts worked really well in my family one year.
- Could you all nominate a charity that the family makes a donation to, you get together to enjoy your meal (more on this next week) and get smaller presents for the children to open and play with there and then.
- Have an unplugged Christmas, no games consoles or phone accessories, nothing electronic as a gift. In an ideal world, there wouldn’t be anything like that at the table or afterwards either, but I know I don’t live in an ideal world!
- Set a present cost limit – have a competition for the funniest and most inventive presents.
- Only buy for the children, but give the parents vouchers for babysitting services or a theatre tokens, meal out vouchers or a cinema gift card.
- Give the children vouchers to be redeemed for a day out to the closest city, fancy lunch, museum trip or zoo visit or theme park.
If you’re struggling with money, you have to speak to your family early so people don’t begin their preparations and blow your budget out the water making you feel you have to try and compensate. Then when the day is here – I know it is difficult, but if people try to shame you with their reaction to their gift, do speak up to say that “It was all I could afford to share with you”.
Remember, the true meaning of Christmas is gathering together to celebrate, not being given the latest gadget or thing. By all means have your child think about items that they would like, so you have a ready list if people are stuck with what to buy them (there is a page in your notebook just for this and also for their clothing sizes), however, do not buy everything on the list! Children have to learn that sometimes you don’t get everything you want and that if you want something, you have to work hard and save for it.
Whether you’re religious or not, we are working towards you being able to share your time and energy, not your stresses because you’re worried about presents. Its about presence.
Do you see what I did there?
Next week we’ll talk about juggling your diary, so you don’t end up frazzled before you start.