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We’ve all heard the question. Getting this close to the holiday season means being bombarded with questions from family, friends, and even downright strangers regarding our spending habits. Everyone wants to know whether you’re giving or whether you’re Scrooge. There is no in between for so many.

How do you approach this question?

Values

Whenever I hear this question, I often just come out with a stock, “Oh, I haven’t even gotten started yet!” to the dismay and nervous laughter of the questioner. Naturally, the closer we get to December 25, the more concerned their response becomes.

The truth of the matter is spending money because I have to really doesn’t gel with my belief system. I love to give gifts as much as the next guy, but who says it has to happen on December 25? Where’s the spontaneity and love and generosity in giving by mandate?

No different from a spouse who says I love you out of habit, there’s something missing in the entire tragic comedy of holiday gifting.

I would much rather give someone something that matters when it counts than let the calendar and consumer traditions dictate my behaviour. For instance, a well-timed and deserved compliment goes a hell of a lot further than a box of chocolates–or so I’ve been told.

Connecting

There’s a problem with disconnecting the way we choose to act during the holiday season and the rest of the year. Why do people need to be prompted on Valentine’s Day to give a damn about their significant other? Why do fathers and mothers make sure they’re off work for Thanksgiving but neglect a few dozen other weekends with their children throughout the year? Why can’t people be generous on a random day in the middle of June and instead wait for the end of the year?

Every day is an opportunity to connect or reconnect with the people who matter most. Trust me, relationships left to wallow in the sea of nothingness for +300 days of the year are going to wilt no matter what grand adventure you have planned for Christmas. In any aspect of life, results are achieved by steady, small, accumulated efforts which add up over time.

I figure it’s better to be a decent person each day of the year (okay, I don’t actually live up to this ideal, but it is something I’m working at) than to buy roses when I make a mistake.

Courage

It took me a long time to resist and ultimately reject obligatory gifting. There are a number of angles this can be approached. For instance, some do so out of a Minimalist inclination to not clutter their worlds with items they don’t need or want. Others may do so because of the financial burden and uncertainty of having to shell out thousands of dollars just to keep up appearances. After all, if your friend gives you a gift worth $100 and you’ve only spent $25, that can lead to resentment, right? It’s ridiculous, but relationships get ruined over this nonsense.

At the end of the day, it’s taken me a lot of years to develop the courage to simply say no to holiday gifting. My family doesn’t exchange gifts anymore. Instead, we simply focus on making time for one another throughout the year and not losing touch. As far as friends and acquaintances go, I figure anyone who can’t understand my stance probably doesn’t understand me much, either. If describing that I place more value on shared experiences than on exchanged trinkets doesn’t satisfy their curiosity, then so be it.

The Exception

Now, the above discussion I’ve reserved for gifting between adults. When it comes to children, I figure there’s a fine line to draw. At the end of the day, I’m a grown adult who can live by my choices and bear the consequences of my decisions when it all boils down.

When it comes to children, I believe there is absolutely room for having something under the tree for them. It’s all about balance. A few gifts isn’t going to turn children into needy brats who don’t know the value of hard work. At the end of the day, it is again the sum of their collective experience under your wing that will influence their life path. Kids should be allowed to have some fun not just on Christmas, but throughout the year as well.

Thank you for reading.

Ryan

How do you approach gift giving through the holidays?

Pictures courtesy of pixabay.com

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