Keeping Holiday Gift Giving In Perspective

Keeping Holiday Gift Giving In Perspective

By Amanda Fox

The holidays are always stressful, but this year it has proved to be more pronounced for many people. The economy isn’t what it used to be. People don’t have the kind of money to spend on gifts this year the way they did before. Families that may have earmarked a couple thousand dollars for the holidays in previous years may only have a few hundred now. It’s difficult for many of them to cope with that reality. It’s also tough for the people around them that are doing well and that is something that is often overlooked. Gift giving, now more than ever for many, needs to be kept in perspective.

Before you start rolling your eyes over that concept, stop and think about it objectively for a moment. It’s not easy to watch people you care about struggling – particularly when it is due to circumstances beyond their control. Sporadic employment, pay cuts to keep a job or even worse, a lost job, has been a reality for many people. It’s compounded when you factor in children who often don’t really understand how that effects something like Santa who is supposed to be magic and above recessionary losses.

What do you do if you are that person that has weathered the storm well and feels, let’s face it, feels bad buying up gifts and having an elaborate holiday in front of those who can’t? There are a few things you can do that won’t take away from your holiday in any way and might actually make it even better. Not just better for you, but better for everyone around you. There are a few things you can do to give the gift of a little compassion along with what comes under the tree.

Many families, friends and co-workers participate in secret Santa or a similar gift exchange. By making sure there is a very reasonable hard cap in place, no one feels as if they are compelled to spend more than their budget allows or to even opt out entirely. There are some people that feel compelled to go a little overboard when they draw someone they know is having a tough time, but you have to refrain from it. Gift by the rules and everyone feels like an equal.



The holiday season is about more than a stack of presents (Image by Simon Mernagh)

Also, there is no hard and fast rule that gifts all have to be given on the actual holiday you celebrate. If you have people over, it can be uncomfortable when they see what gifts you gave and mentally inventory that against what they were able to provide. This is heightened when kids are involved because they have no qualms about asking why they may not have gotten what Bobby or Cindy got – especially if it is something they asked for. There is a simple solution.

Hold off on the big ticket items until after everyone has made the holiday rounds. This way, when someone looks under the tree they don’t see the iPad, expensive jewelry, new TV or pricey gifts they can’t give to their family. Give the gifts that have personal meaning or the tube socks and underwear type of stuff. You and your guests will feel more comfortable this way and if kids are involved – they’ll catch on. It may even become a family tradition that the big gifts don’t arrive until two days after the holiday passes or whatever time frame you decide on.

Another idea is to hold off a little bit on giving more costly gifts to those whom you know can afford them on their own. Get them a gift to be sure, but make it something less expensive than you may have usually chosen. Instead, swing some of that money in your budget toward a gift that someone you know really needs but cannot afford. Maybe you can pick up a little something extra for their kids. And if you are doing okay financially this year, maybe you ask people donate a gift to Toys For Tots, a giving tree or some similar initiative to give to those without. Sure, it’s less under your own tree, but it’s something for a child that may not even have tree much less gifts to go under it.

Don’t feel guilty for having the means to give big item gifts. Instead, have a little compassion for those who can’t and hold off on giving them a couple days. Create and stick to a reasonable amount of money on gift exchanges. There is no reason you can’t give what you want, but there is a big reason why you may want to be more discrete about it which is called compassion. Try giving gifts that have personal meaning and/or a practical use for the recipient. Understand the situation the people around you are in and be sensitive to it. It will make the holiday merrier for everyone.


Gift giving, and receiving, is supposed to be about the thought and not about the cost – and if we lose sight of that, we lose sight of what the holidays mean. Comment below on what ideas you have, we’d love to hear them!

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