Creating Meaningful Experiences for the Holidays…and All Year Through

gift givingThese days, we hear a lot about the colossal national debt facing our country. While individually, we don’t have much control in this area, we do have control over our personal debt. It’s a little sobering to realize that the average credit card debt per households is $15,799! If the upcoming holiday season has you thinking about adding to that debt, it’s time to pause and think about alternative ways to celebrate the true meaning of the holidays.

Gift giving (a.k.a. gift buying) often adds to the stress of the holidays that so many people dread. Not only is it hard on the bank account, but it can also be difficult to figure out what the recipient might like or need. Once you finally do have an idea, you face the craziness of navigating through those crowded store aisles.

Simplifying your gift giving this year will not diminish the warm feeling of the holiday spirit. In fact, by giving gifts that lead to activities that create great memories, you can make stronger and more meaningful connections with your friends and family and eliminate the stress of buying “stuff.”

Great memories are made when you spend an afternoon baking cookies, take a trip to the zoo or children’s museum, attend a concert, musical, or theatrical event, see a movie, take in a football or basketball game, or even go out to eat at a favorite restaurant. Gift certificates or a yearly membership pass can be excellent gifts that can give you great excuses to “play” together throughout the year.

You could even make your own gift certificates that invite the recipients to join you for a fun event, your treat. This is a great idea for kids as well as adults and can include things like family game night, a picnic, a massage, a manicure/pedicure, a game of catch, or a trip to the park or pool.

Another fantastic idea is to find out your gift recipient’s favorite cause or charity and make a donation in his or her name. Along that same line, you can find ways to minimize the commercialism of the holidays for your entire family by giving to people who REALLY have a need. For example, you might volunteer at a food pantry or soup kitchen in December, organize a coat or blanket drive for a homeless shelter, or help pack care packages for military personnel.

If you do give gifts, keep it simple. Set a budget and stick to it. Give one gift to an entire family (like a board game, movie passes, or a membership to their local zoo), or just buy for the kids. You can also draw names to determine who buys for whom. Subtly prepare your kids for the type and number of gifts they will receive by talking about the importance of giving rather than receiving.

In short, to simplify the holiday season, try putting the spotlight on creating wonderful, meaningful memories, and downplay the need for more stuff. Happy holidays!

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