Years ago, I hosted a family holiday gift exchange that ended up an epic fail. In the spirit of taking the focus off buying gifts and instead creating memories, I implemented what I thought would be a fun experience of a random gift exchange. I was hoping to take the pressure off family members to buy everyone a gift, and I hoped making a fun memory would be a gift itself.
Unfortunately, I found out the joy of gift giving is different for everyone. While I gravitate toward creating experiences and spending time with those I care about, others truly enjoy searching for the perfect gift to buy someone they care about. While I thought I was gifting my guests with a new memory and experience, others felt they were stripped of the opportunity to give intentional gifts and the joy of watching the recipient receive it.
Admittedly, I am always on a quest for a fun, but economical, holiday experience. As a financial advisor, I believe the holidays can be an opportunity to indulge in what brings you and others joy – as long as its within your financial means. But our culture around the holidays has turned more toward finding “the perfect gift,” often at the sacrifice of our own financial wellbeing.
In 2018, the U.S. household debt was at an all-time high of $13.2 trillion.The persistent consumer culture that has influenced beliefs, spending habits and thoughts around the holidays for decades has further perpetuated our habits of overspending. While most of us love giving as much – if not more than – receiving, we feel increasingly pressured to spend more than we have in order to do so.
So this year, I urge you to consider – and even discuss with your family and friends – what gift-giving and receiving means to them. Some of my favorite ways to redefine the idea of material gifts include:
- Start holiday traditions that build memories – spend time together making cookies or enjoying a holiday light walk.
- Provide options to buy less – my gift exchange was a failure because I didn’t take into account everyone’s feelings. Some guests enjoyed it – we’ve since modified it to involve only those who choose to participate. Others who have the means and desire to give gifts to everyone or pick out meaningful gifts can still enjoy the gathering as well.
- Give the gift of time – serving as a family at a food kitchen, going to an escape room, ice skating together, theater tickets and a Boone Valley train ride are all wonderful family experiences that create memories for a lifetime.
- Create ideas together – talk about what the holidays mean to you with your loved ones and focus on those things. It may surprise you how much less “things” mean than time together.
Wishing you a wonderful, and memory-filled, holiday season!
Securities and Advisory Services through Harbour Investments, Inc. Member SIPC.