Every year, we find ourselves drowning in a giant orgy of gift-giving. We buy and buy physical items that we give to our family and friends, hoping to see a big smile on their face and a warm embrace. For me, my weakness is children; I tend to want to buy them a present that makes them jump up and down with excitement.
What I’ve learned, though, is that it’s not usually the gift itself that they remember. Instead, what they remember is you at Christmas. Think back to your family Christmases. Do people who were exceptionally joyful stick out for you? They do for me, and seeing such joy was what made our large family Christmases memorable. I don’t remember the people who were going through stressful events and were worried about paying for everything; I remember the ones who were happy, the ones who didn’t give the $250 electronic gift.
The first Christmas gift you should buy this year (and every year) is peace of mind for yourself. If you go to your family’s Christmas festivities with extra stress on your heart because you simply spent too much for Christmas, not only will you enjoy the holidays less, but your family will enjoy them less, too. Sure, someone might have that iPod they’ve been yearning for, but what will stick with their heart is the big hug and smile you gave to them, or the hour you spent playing with your nephew’s new dump truck.
The road to holiday contentment is simple. First, take a third or a half (or even more) of your Christmas spending budget and put it in a high yield savings account For me, this would have been a solid chunk of change in years past, but this year my Christmas budget is already far smaller than in previous years.
Then do the rest of your Christmas shopping using your remaining budget. Maybe instead of buying someone an expensive book, you can buy them a copy of one of your favorite paperbacks instead. Maybe instead of a wonderful new sweater for your sister, you can give her a ring and offer to cap spending on each other, or just buy for each other’s children. Maybe, just maybe, you can make a few presents yourself, like homemade soaps or homemade ethnic foods.
I argue that this is the best Christmas gift you can get for your loved ones – and for yourself. Why? As the holidays wear on, you’ll not have that sinking feeling of debt pulling at your ankles; instead, you’ll have money stowed away for a family emergency. As you sit around the Christmas tree with your family, you won’t have the underlying feeling of stress that you had in previous years; you’ll be happier and freer than before, and it will simply show in your personality.
If you still believe that this is Scrooge-ish, just do it for one year. Let the money sit in the account, then use it and do whatever you want next year for Christmas. You might just find that having that backup fund made things easier, lightened your spirit, and made for a very merry Christmas after all.