Written in collaboration with Clarity Counseling, by Tessa Torgeson
Gift giving during the holidays can be a tangled and complicated endeavor that takes away from the true meaning of the holidays. Many people are familiar with insecurity, stress, and financial woes associated with holiday shopping. Yet, it does not have to be this way. You can reframe your perspective on gift giving for a more positive, healthy one that will not hurt wallets and confidence.
Unfortunately, when it comes to gift giving, society seems to have forgotten the old adage, “It’s the thought that counts.” In fact, according a recent Gallop Poll, the average U.S. consumer spends $770 per year on Christmas gifts. A similar poll in the U.K. found that one in three Britons will take on debt to pay for Christmas gifts!
Priorities shifted somewhere along the winding path from childhood to adulthood. The child-like fervor of gift giving and receiving dwindled. For some people, became more about emptying pocketbooks than picking out a special something for a loved one.
If you think of gift giving as a woeful obligation, as something to prove love or success, you might be tempted to over spend. Likewise, you may be more likely to overspend if you feel you must spend an equal amount on all of your children, or spend the same amount that someone spends on you.
Overspending and going into debt perpetuate a vicious cycle of stress, guilt, and even shame. When you overspend, you might spend the entire year paying off debts or trying to catch up with other financial obligations.
You can replace these negative beliefs about gift giving and instead, think about it as an act of love. Specifically, author and psychologist Gary Chapman calls gift giving one of the Five Languages of Love. Chapman writes that gift giving shows thoughtfulness and caring for our loved ones. The amount of money you spend on a gift is not representative of how much you love someone.
Here are a few helpful tips for choosing a thoughtful gift. These tips are entwined with the amount of intimacy you have with loved ones. Carefully listen to them. What are their hobbies? Passions? Interests? Perhaps your loved one is a bibliophile, or musician, or hobbyist. Often when you pause and listen, your loved one will reveal specifics about what they enjoy.
Another consideration in gift giving is what do they feel uncomfortable spending money on? Often, people feel uncomfortable spending money on certain things they might deem as luxuries or unnecessary spending. These can be simple, yet well-received treats such as a warm, fuzzy pair of slippers or pajamas to nestle in on the blustery North Dakota evenings.
Give gifts within your means. This means having confidence that your friends and family will understand your economic situation. Hopefully, they will simply appreciate your presence at family events and, if you are able to afford one, a simple yet thoughtful gift.
We do the best we can with what we have. But gift giving, and for that matter, living within our means requires fostering a balance of self-love, confidence, and discipline. It is important to have support and guidance in this transition. Trish Tallakson and Marty Tallakson at Clarity Counseling can help provide you both the support and guidance you need to foster self-confidence and manage stress year-round.