Updated on 12.17.08

The Perfect Christmas Gift

Trent Hamm

mom with christmas tree and dog by freeparking on Flickr!Each Christmas season follows the same general routine.

Throughout the year, I keep my eye open for good Christmas gift ideas for my family and friends. I’ll glance through flyers, look at sales, and stop in at exceptional events like “going out of business” sales with the idea in mind that I’ll find an amazing gift for someone at a stellar price – and I usually do find one or two.

As the end of the year approaches, this ramps up. My wife and I make long lists of all of our Christmas obligations and we dig deep into the process of buying presents for everyone. We spend hours upon hours thinking about the perfect gift for everyone in our family. We usually make a bunch of homemade gifts – homemade beer, homemade cookies, and so on. During this period, we usually do find a few great gifts for people, and we happily wrap these up and stow them away under our tree.

As the final week or so approaches, we’re usually getting very nervous about the remaining holes on our list – and we start to panic a bit. We wind up searching madly for gifts for those last few people, rushing around with a ton of pre-holiday nervousness.

A few days before Christmas, we look under the tree – usually as we’re packing up for a long winter trek to visit family – and we’re aghast at the sheer quantity of gifts. “Did we really buy all this stuff?” we’ll ask each other. And, sure enough, we did.

For those last few days, we usually feel some guilt. We think about all of the money we’ve spent on gifts, even if we did find some spectacular bargains along the way. Usually, when we actually do make a tally, it’s not as bad as it seems, adding some relief to our misery.

As Christmas approaches, though, our feelings about the gifts begin to change. We settle in with our family, warm and comfortable and together. We watch old home movies together and play games together. We relax and nap and tell each other stories about the year that’s past.

And on Christmas morning, we all get up together and open those gifts that we’ve been stowing away each year. All of the people we love, together, in one room, opening the gifts we’ve thought so carefully about and purchased for each other.

I get to watch my niece try to look serious as she opens her gifts, but her simple joy at receiving something she’s wanted for a long time still comes through on her stern face.

I get to watch my sister-in-law sit there with the dazed smile she gets every year on Christmas morning.

I get to watch my mother’s eyes glow with happiness as she watches her grandchildren dive into a pile of presents.

And I realize that it really doesn’t matter what gifts are actually wrapped up under the tree. I’ve already received the perfect Christmas gift – those moments with my family, creating memories of togetherness and happiness that will stick in my mind for the rest of my life.

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  1. Trevor - 14 Year Old Money Blogger says:

    Its true that often the best presents are the emotional ones.

    I know I enjoy the moments of happiness a lot too.

  2. Joseph says:

    Beautifully written.
    Your family togetherness almost makes me cry.
    Sounds like a great Christmas :)

  3. Great post! I too like to look for gifts all through the year — I read a lot of book reviews and clip titles I know friends will enjoy, then keep those in a folder, take a look at them when the holiday season arrives, and place one big online book order. I save on postage and stress.

    But although I love to give and receive thoughtful gifts, I’m looking forward to playing games with my family as much as I am to anything else.

    Btw: I’m sure I’m not the only one who likes it when you “personalize” your postings by making them anecdotal, rather than just “straight” money-saving tips. Those are good, too! — but I do enjoy your stories.

  4. Your Friendly Neighborhood Computer Guy says:

    Well said Trent! I feel like you just crawled inside my mind to tell my own story in this post! =-)

    Merry Christmas!

  5. sunny says:

    Wow, Trent, this made me tear up. Well done.

    Merry Christmas to you and your family.

  6. Lou says:

    Lovely post. And an excellent approach for young householders.

    I’m at the geriatric stage of the life cycle, so shopping & toting are less easy than they were. Also, we need less ourselves, and are less often in stores. Finally, we have limited sense of what younger people’s interests are, especially if they live far away.

    So this year, we gave the gift of experience. Theater tickets to the Lion King to the youngsters who live in New york suburbs, but never go into “the City.” Museum or zoo memberships for the whole family for those with young children. And for the older family members, i went through my photo collection and wrapped the best family pix i could find at different ages and stages.

    merry christmas.

  7. Karen Bethel says:

    Those are the best gifts…they create memories and the photos bring back good memories! Excellent and thoughtful gifts!
    Thanks for sharing!

  8. Bruce says:

    Merry Christmas.

  9. Robert says:

    I’d have to agree that Christmas is about the time we get to spend with those we are close to. The memories we make will long outlast the gifts themselves anyway.

  10. Ethan Bloch says:

    This was truly touching and I couldn’t agree more. I should said I don’t actually celebrate Christmas, but can still totally relate.

    Happy Holidays!


  11. Anna says:

    One year, when I had hardly any money, I put my pennies together and got two small photo albums. Then I went through years of family photos and assembled a personalized volume for each son, starting with earliest baby photos and going through college graduation. Into the first page, I slipped a fancy title page that said “The Life and Times of [Name].” Both said it was the best present ever.

  12. Kevin M says:

    I told my wife last night after we got home from our Christmas gatherings…this is really the first year I had no desire to even receive a gift. I didn’t mind giving stuff to people, but like you, it was really about hanging out with family, talking and having fun this year.

    I just feel truly blessed for all that’s been given to us…a beautiful son, our health, great families, good jobs, I can’t help but feel a little guilty for having so much when some out there have so little.

  13. Roger says:

    Very nice; a wonderful sentiment for this time of year. Thanks for sharing, Trent.

  14. Charlie says:

    Trent: I wholeheartedly agree. You said it perfectly… The perfect gift is the moments with family, and the “I get to watch…”

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