Gift giving: Sometimes less really is more

Closeup of woman's hands presenting a small gift box

Unaltered image. Asenat29, Flickr. CC License.

Whether you celebrate Christmas in a religious or secular fashion, I’m pretty sure the point of the holiday isn’t getting the best deal on the latest gadget. However anyone who’s flipped through a magazine, stepped foot in a store, or watched even five minutes of television lately knows the advertisers would sure like us to think otherwise.

We can become “consumer zombies”, buying mindlessly and impulsively. With online shopping, it’s even easier to overbuy, and Americans currently hold a staggering $890.9 billion (yep, that’s a B) in credit card debt.

But what if we didn’t give in to the “buy-buy-buy-more-better-bigger” mentality? Instead, what if we focused on what gift giving is really about: showing someone you’re thinking of them?

Yes the money we spend helps workers at the stores pay their bills, and for some, the seasonal sales may help carry them for the entire year. I’m all for boosting the local economy, and I’m not the Grinch. A thoughtful gift can be a wonderful way to show someone you’re thinking of them. And for many families on a tight budget, this is one of the few times a year when they do buy toys and new things. They carefully save up and buy what they can, and the gifts are fully appreciated because everyone knows they didn’t come easy.

Kids don’t always understand family finances, however, and may rankle when they see others flaunting the latest clothes, video games, phone, etc. Parents may also feel guilty if their child doesn’t have the latest fashion or game. How does a parent balance this?

This blogger says to lower kids’ holiday expectations, use “strategic deprivation”, and be open about scaling back. One of the best lessons parents can teach their kids is the value of delayed gratification; waiting for a special time to receive something you’ve really wanted brings a particular kind of pleasure. Some families forego gifts to make donations to charities or needy families, while other families volunteer their time together at the holidays.

Many of us also have concerns about too much stuff — when we have so much we don’t even know what we have or where to fit it all. Maybe there’s a better way. We can declutter, donate what we don’t need any more (blessing others rather than gathering dust!), and think carefully about what we would like to receive and give. The greatest gift we can give another person is simply being with them and fully engaged. Let’s make the holidays about our presence as much as our presents!

 – Lori Warner, Ph.D., LP, BCBA-D, Director, HOPE Center at Beaumont Children’s Hospital

1 Response to “Gift giving: Sometimes less really is more”

  1. 1 Anonymous December 7, 2015 at 3:16 pm

    Nice reminders. Thank you!

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