The Right Gifts
Gift giving at Christmas has its roots in remembering and commemorating two actions: First is the gift of God’s Son, Jesus, to make right all that had gone wrong in the world. The second is in remembering the gifts the wise men took to the Christ child after traveling far and wide to find him.
But manufacturers and merchants have turned this into the most profitable time of the year.
You are likely thinking about what gifts to purchase for your friends and family this year. And some of you are tempted to go into considerable debt to do so.
How can you celebrate Christmas differently this year? How can you say, “I love you” to those who mean the most in your life without causing harm to them or yourself? Here are a few things you might think consider:
1, Check your motives. Are you really trying to bless others and truly love on them? Or are you trying to impress, outdo, and otherwise spoil? Exercising unhealthy behavior around others is never a good idea, and it likely does more harm than good, even if you don’t intend it. Model sensible behavior that is ripe with good intentions; people will pick up on the love behind the gift, no matter how small. Better to give something small but personalized, rather than something expensive that may go to waste, or even embarrass the recipient. See Dave Ramsey’s article on “4 Competitive Pitfalls To Avoid This Christmas.”
2. Ask yourself if you can afford the gifts you want to purchase. Someone recently wrote nationally-syndicated advice columnist, Amy Dickinson, asking how to handle a mother-in-law who routinely overspends on multiple gifts for her grandchildren, yet who is chronically behind on her mortgage and routinely asks for financial help.* I agree with Amy that this mother-in-law has issues beyond overspending at Christmas. Maybe she could use the gift of counseling!
3. Think long-term. I was tempted to purchase an expensive gift for a family member this year, but know it would be foolish in light of my student loans that need to be paid off. Even though I know the gift would be extremely meaningful to the intended recipient, I have to keep my own long-term goal in mind—to be debt-free as soon as possible.
4. Don’t go into debt buying presents. Only make purchases with money you have, not with money you hope to get in the future. Don’t make buying decisions you will pay for the rest of the year–with interest! Clark Howard recommends freezing your credit card—literally putting it into a container of water and stashing it in the freezer. You will be less likely to make an impulse buy with a card you can’t easily get to.
5. Find personalized gifts that are inexpensive, shop for bargains, get creative. When I was a girl scout, we made vouchers one year. That is when you make up a little certificate good for a night of babysitting, a back rub, an offer to clean out the fridge, or some other task you know would be helpful and meaningful to the recipient. Now you can even get creative designing cool vouchers on your computer! Make little bags with stocking-stuffer type things like hand sanitizer, lip balm and chip clips that will be used throughout the year.
6. Make something. One year I asked my brother what he wanted for Christmas, and he responded, “Peace on earth!” I found a peace-on-earth cut-out-card that inspired me to make a collage contrasting the conflict in our world with peace. I gave it to him and he hung it on his wall. It was fun, creative, and very personalized. Check Pinterest and other online sites for ideas.
7. Gift something you already have. Think about heirlooms, special family treasures or other items that have nostalgic significance. You can’t believe how special the most seemingly insignificant thing might mean to someone because it was yours.
8. Budget for Christmas gifts. Well, it’s a bit late for that this year. But consider setting aside a specified amount every paycheck or each month next year so you don’t get caught in a last-minute panic for cash.
9. Shop sales. I picked up $5 ice cream gift certificates for $2 each. They will be appreciated by friends who love to visit the establishment, even if it’s not till next summer.
10. Remember that money can buy UNhappiness. Don’t make a decision you or your recipients will regret in January, February, March and beyond. Money can’t buy you love. And we’re often not good at figuring out what does.
Make wise and loving decisions that will serve you and your loved ones this Christmas and beyond. And take time to remember the greatest gift of all—the gift of a deity who thinks you’re fantastic and irresistible.
“Dear Amy” column appeared in my local newspaper, The Gazette, on December 7, 2014.