The meaning of the Christmas Holiday has changed significantly over time. In the beginning, when it started over 1,500 years ago, it was simply a celebration. It was a gathering of friends and family to celebrate an event. No matter who you were and what your label, you were welcome to join in the festivities and your presence was all that was needed.
Slowly over the centuries, though, it began to transform. New traditions started to develop until now when Christmas is centered around giving and receiving gifts.
The commercialization of Christmas, in turn, has helped people develop chronic stress and anxiety about the idea of gift giving (and receiving for that matter). And many people, over time, start to loath the idea of the Holiday season instead of taking the time to enjoy it for what it is.
So what can we do to regulate this gift-giving stress response? Are there truly any alternatives? Is there really a way out? Let’s see if we can find some answers to these questions.
Tony Robbins lives his life on giving. As a matter of fact, he says his life turned around one day when he had a revelation in his car, pulled over to the curb, and wrote in his journal “the secret to living is giving”.
So if giving is the secret to living a great life and it is a part of every human’s fulfillment, then why do the majority of us get so stressed out about the idea of buying gifts during the Holidays?
The answer to this questions can be boiled down to aspects:
This is pretty clear. We’ve all had that feeling of financial distress during the Holidays. Whether you’re decorating your house, cooking dinner for the family and giving gifts, almost everything during the Holiday season requires spending money.
The thought of going out this time of year to shop sends chills down my spine. All of the people and all of the lines and not finding what you want and traffic. Not to mention everything else you have to do: go grocery shopping, make dinner, put up decorations, pick up relatives from the airport. Time seems to shrink once the Holidays roll around
Right around the beginning of November, my wife and I will be sitting at breakfast and suddenly, the question comes up, “What should we get your parents for Christmas this year?”. Another spine shaker, this question is only the beginning of borage of other questions and statements to follow: “What about your sisters?” “How much should we spend?” “What about my family?” “Should we get something for everybody?” “We need to top last year”. Everyone can relate to the panic that ensues when it’s time to figure out what to buy others for Christmas.
It’s no wonder we run like maniacs this time of year. With all of these aspects building up, it’s only a matter time before we get overwhelmed and implode.
Luckily for you I have a little process that can help get your gift giving under control. With a few easy steps, you’ll have everything right in front of you ready to go. To get started, you’ll need a pen and paper.
I’m a big fan of systems. Systems are what make our lives run efficiently and effortlessly. Without systems, we would live in total and utter chaos. An example of a system is your morning routine. Maybe you get up at 6:00AM, turn the coffee on, go grab the newspaper, take the dogs out, sit down with your coffee and paper and read, have breakfast, get ready and head to work. This is your morning system. Without it, you would get nothing accomplished.
So it only makes sense to have a system that helps you with your gift buying. And in order to do this properly, you’ll need to write everything down. This is where the magic happens. Without your written word, all you have are thoughts. Considering you have between 60,000 and 80,000 thoughts a day, everything here will get lost in that endless sea quickly.
Now let’s get started. These steps are in order, so make sure to do them from top to bottom:
I understand this a groundbreaking idea. But, although it seems so simple, the majority of us still end up panicking over money this time of year. So create your budget and save yourself the stress. There are a couple of ways you can go about doing this
On January 1st, set up a separate bank account strictly for Gift giving. Set to have a specific amount of money deposited into that account each month. Whatever you end up with is what you’ll spend on gifts (I understand it’s too late for this method this year. Remember, planning is everything).
If you don’t want to set money aside each month, decide to pick a percentage of the money you’ve saved yourself. For instance, say you added an extra $5,000 to your savings account this year and you want to spend %20 of that on gifts. That’s $1,000 for all of the gifts you’ll purchase for the year.
These aren’t the only ways to create your budget, but they work in many other aspects of life. So once you have your budget, and it’s written down, stick to it. Don’t let yourself deviate.
This is the step most people will trip up on because it requires that you make some tough choices. Setting boundaries means deciding WHO you want to buy gifts for. We all believe we are obligated to buy gifts for everyone we know. Whether it’s our brother or sister or mom and dad or cousins or aunts and uncles or friends or coworkers, we think we need to buy gifts for all of them. Because, for goodness sake, what is going to happen if you don’t buy a gift for them and they buy a gift for you?!?! And even if they don’t buy a gift for you, are you making them feel unwanted? Are they not special enough for a gift?
Remember, at its’ heart, Christmas is not about giving gifts. It’s about being with friends and family and enjoying each other’s company. It is about your PRESENCE not your PRESENTS (you like what I did there?).
So decide who you want to buy gifts for, write it down and stick to it. Maybe you just buy gifts for your immediate family or maybe you include close friends or maybe you don’t buy gifts for anybody. Whatever it is, be consistent and stay with it. Don’t be afraid to communicate those you aren’t buying gifts for to let them know why. Maybe you aren’t buying gifts for a certainly group because your budget is too small or maybe it’s because you have a rule to not buy gifts for coworkers. Set your boundaries and stick to them
We all want to make sure that we buy the perfect gift for everybody. We like the feeling that we get when the gift is opened and the person goes “OMG this is exactly what I wanted!!”. But is all the stress and anxiety you went through to create that moment of gratification truly worth it?
Instead of trying to go for perfect, create a theme for all of your gifts and base your decisions on that theme. What do I mean by theme? Here are 3 examples:
This is something I never would have thought of if it weren’t for my wife. She is a crafting maniac. And, because of that, a lot of the gifts we give are homemade. So pick a craft you want to make and make it for everybody. Maybe you make a bunch of personalized picture frames. People LOVE personalized stuff. Or maybe you get a bunch of wine bottles and decorate them ribbons and glitter and buttons. Sure this might take time, but it will save TONS of money and be more meaningful.
Practical gifts are often overlooked because they can be boring. A basket full of toiletries doesn’t get the “WOW” factor that the perfect gift does. However, practical means thoughtful. Because, not only are you taking the time to put the basket together, you’re also saving the other person money by buying them something they NEED instead of something they WANT.
When we were kids, my dad would buy all of our family members the same thing every year, but it was also completely different every year. He would buy everyone a piece of crystal and each year the crystal was a different shape or form. Now, I’m not suggesting you go to this extreme. But maybe one year you buy little figurines and one year you buy pictures and one year you buy clocks. Or you can individualize it to the person. Buy Aunt Sally drapes and buy your sister a lamp.
You’re starting to understand the idea behind creating a theme, hopefully. Make sure to write it down and stick to it. If you’re consistent across the board, everyone will be happy and no one will feel unspecial.
Follow these steps to get you to gift nirvana. You’ll eliminate unwanted stress and be prepared to tackle the Holiday with a plan. Remember, failing to plan is planning to fail.