You’ve made that gift list and checked it twice … and you just can’t see how on earth you will be able to afford it this season. You are literally wishing that Santa could swoop in with his sleigh of toys to help provide for the friends, your family, and your coworkers who expect something from you. And yes, a credit card could solve all of your problems, but for now only – you will get nasty surprise in January and probably end up paying off the Christmas debt well into March. But instead of pulling out that nasty credit card or raiding the closet for re-gifts (scented candle and bubble bath anyone?), you have a few other options.
You probably don’t realise it, but the people on your list might be just as relieved as you to do away with a gift exchange, and these ideas below can really help in finding meaningful ways to bond, celebrate your friendships, and even give back to others without having to go into debt.
Non-material gifts for family
For young kids, wrapped presents can be a really important part of their holiday (the expectation is there!), but there’s no need to give that up. But minimising material gifts can really help your family save money and rather spend quality time together. Children will remember the experiences you create whilst on holidays more than what they will remember about the presents they got. Just think back to when you were a child – do you remember the presents or the moments?
It’s not unheard of these days where parents find it easier to make a mutual decision to her ratskip gifting each other presents, saving the money for either a family goal (pay off a little bit more on your house or reducing that expensive short term debt) or a family experience. And while you may find yourself buying a few small material presents for young kids, getting them excited about an experience (the present that can’t be wrapped and put under the tree) can help them begin to understand the value of family time and experiences rather than things.
A coupon book
A homemade coupon book is classic homemade gift for a reason! Building a coupon book for each child (or your partner) to cash in throughout the year lets them know how much you treasure the unique bond you have. These “goods” can be as simple as baking cookies together, have movie night with popcorn and pizzas, control of the TV control for a weekend, or bedtime two hours later than usual. Not only can these be fun to use throughout the year they can also help you find those experiences and special time spend with each child.
A plan for organising family photos, documents, and memories
If you’re stumped for gifts for extended family, conquering old photo albums and documents is a huge undertaking that everyone would appreciate. Taking the lead on deciding how and where photos and mementos should be kept, organized, and distributed, or setting up a virtual cloud of family photos for distribution, is a really big gift. Instead of exchanging gifts, family members can come together with items related to the history of the family and then throughout the year, various people can take the lead on organising and distributing them.
Non-material gifts for friends and coworkers
Gift exchanges between friends can become difficult and not to mention, pricey. Not only that, but a candle here, a mug there, and it’s all too easy for a gift exchange to feel like you’re simply swapping through the same boring presents. This year, instead of gifts, propose these options:
Take something off their to-do list: From cleaning the house to putting air in tires, to picking up kids from school, one person’s dreaded chore or procrastination is another person’s No Big Deal! This year, make a plan to exchange dreaded to-do list items, with the idea that everyone will get something they truly need and value — and have been putting off for way too long. To make the process fair, add some guardrails, like time limitations.
Contribute to a shared gift: If you work with a tight group of coworkers, suggest everyone pitch in R50 for an epic sweets and chocolates drawer. If you and your friend always get together for a drink, consider chipping in and sharing a wine or beer of the month club. The idea here is to think of potential gifts-that-keeps-on-giving that can benefit all, and also offer an excuse to get together.
Write a note of appreciation: If your usual office or friend holiday gathering includes a gift exchange, suggest that this year, you each take the time to write a short note or a poem about what the other person has done this past year that you admire or appreciate. It doesn’t need to be elaborate. Taking the time to reflect on how important a person is to you, or even just how amazing their Google Sheets skills are, can be a great (and memorable) way to bond without breaking the bank.
Start the conversation surrounding gifts now
Of course, you should still give presents if you want to — but if this becomes stressful and anxiety filled, then it may be time to speak up that this year you would like to do things differently. Trust us, you will be surprised in how many of your family, friends and co-workers will support you. It’s difficult out there for everyone! By prioritizing relationships and experiences rather than things, you’re setting the stage for plenty of memories and laughter. You might be saying what others are thinking. Putting this idea out there can ensure that everyone’s on the same page without any awkwardness or resentment— or unwanted bubble bath.
Hero Life is a company that offers a free online Will, helps you to start saving for your kids’ education, and offers life insurance, designed specifically for young parents. Hero Life is an MMI Group initiative, and underwritten by Guardrisk Life Limited (Reg no 1999/013922/06), an authorised Financial Services Provider (FSP license number 76).
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