Bah Humbug! A Personal Note on the Holidays (Part II)

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When the girls started receiving Chanukah gelt (money/coins in various denominations) we asked them to pick a day that they wanted to give that gelt back to a charity of their choice (with no influence from us) — it could be a food bank, a homeless shelter, a shelter for animals — they got to choose.  It made them feel great. When it came to their gifts, we also tried the approach of: one gift that was something really wanted or needed and then a few little gifts or small stacks of coins that were then donated. This way, they got something they really treasured, but also gave something back that they knew someone else would cherish.

I found that for me, this newly framed approach to gifting really changed the way I felt about the whole buying and giving experience because, I was honestly in a place that going to shopping malls was making me miserable and catalogue shopping was becoming an addictive habit.  I always felt like I was missing something or that I had to compete for the next best thing.  I was always spending way more than I should or needed to and the pre-holiday mail was adding up to 200+ catalogues cluttering our house which was, as an organizer, added a whole other level of stress to the entire experience. 

So with a few little adjustments, my family was able to reframe the entire gifting experience.  Here are a few tips from what I’ve learned:

  1. Make a shopping listThere is nothing more dangerous than going into the holiday gift buying experience without a plan.  It often leads to thoughtless gifts and overspending. Making a list — and better yet, asking your family for their list — will help you make sure that you’re mindfully purchasing and gifting things that you know each person will love and treasure.
  2. Make a budget:  This is a crucial step. No one should ever put themselves into debt trying to show their love to their friends and family…it’s not worth it. When I make my holiday gift budget I break it into three parts: 1) money allocated for gifts, 2) money allocated for donations, 3) money allocated for the service men and women that provide for us throughout the year.  To me, it is important to acknowledge the gentleman who delivers our newspaper every morning at 5 am, and our mail carrier, who we know by name, and the garbage and recycling guys, and the lady who has been cutting my hair for forever, because these folks give 100% and I think it is important to say “Thank You”, if not with a cash gift, then something thoughtful, like cookies, or another homemade treat.
  3. Shop: I like to first go through the catalogues and pull out the few items that I think or know that family or friends might like, order, and then recycle them. If I find there are catalogues that I’m not interested in, I will also contact the catalogue companies and request them to stop circulation so that the amount of paper that comes into my home decreases throughout the year. If there are some gaps that have to be filled by shopping in a store I try to go as early on a weekend as possible to avoid the rush, and therefore avoid the stress.
  4. Wrap: Once I am home with my purchases and my lists I try to wrap with eco- friendly paper and tags (I’m getting better at this and have been using this guide by one of my favorite zero waste bloggers to help me) and put each gift to the side either in my office or in a closet with the list so things are ready to go but not cluttering up my space.

I also want to say that as each year passes, I find myself shopping from companies that encourage eco-friendly sourcing or small batching of their products so that I am helping the environment and helping small businesses, and now that my children are adults, and I have my first grandchild, buying experiences as gifts seems to have a lot more meaning and go a lot further.

Remember the adage:  It’s the thought that counts.  And at this time of year, it really is the thought that counts.  Happy Stress Less Holidays! 

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