2 Questions For Happier Gift Giving

December 5, 2022

We’ve all experienced a Christmas shopping funk. You know, when you are aimlessly wandering through stores trying to find something so-and-so is just going to love, but coming up empty.

It can lead to existential crises about the very traditions of gift giving and commercialization of Christmas.

But then it happens, you find just the thing. Your {coworker/Dad/niece/sister/boyfriend/friend, etc.} is going to love it. And that gets you on a roll. You find yourself humming Christmas songs and smiling at strangers and feeling all kinds of holiday happy.

The gifts I give are never wrapped this gorgeously, just FYI :-)

But all that said, there are opportunities to be more intentional about your gift giving. Here are two questions to consider:

1. Who can you not give to this year?

Got your attention, did I? Let me explain.

This is not intended as encouragement to cut off Grandma or turn into Scrooge. Not at all. But at the holidays it can be easy to fall into the trap of keeping up with the Jones’s Christmas spending trends. And is that true giving?

For example, are you giving neighbor gifts just to check a box?

Or, are you giving your coworkers token gifts because everyone else is doing it?  

Or are you giving because you actually want to?

Are you giving them something that actually came from your imagination, and fits within your budget?

There is such a thing as being positively influenced by the generosity of others. And sometimes not wanting to give is our opportunity to adjust our attitude and find the desire.

Because, if you bow out of everything that isn’t a “heck yes” for you, you’ll miss out on a lot of unexpected joy-giving and joy-receiving.

You may miss out on connection with your neighbors and coworkers and customers. And by adjusting your attitude, you can come to enjoy giving some of these "obligatory" gifts.

But just remember, you get to set the terms. And those terms certainly include not overextending your budget beyond what you can afford.

2. Is there a different sort of gift I can give that would be more meaningful?

This could mean giving an act of service as part of a gift. Or something unexpected and meaningful.

Or your undivided attention. This is not the sort of present that a loved one can unwrap, but the feeling of genuine and attentive listening is a gift they’ll remember. And it’s the sort of gift that can feel more meaningful than picking out a gadget or clothing item out of obligation.

You could decide to spend less lavishly and instead give someone the gift of your time, or time together. Dinner with a friend for an early Christmas gift was much more meaningful for both of us than the gift card I gave her last year.

What’s a gift of “you” that you can give to someone this year?

When I was 16 years old, I wanted a new backpack. My dad made one for me. And we’re not talking about a simple knapsack. No no! This one rivaled Jansport with its structure and compartments and pockets. Even as a self-oriented teenager, I felt really special knowing that my busy dad cared enough about me to put some of himself into making me a backpack.

I actually don’t know if it was a decision motivated by our tight financial situation. Or if he wanted to put himself into the gift for his girl, but I remain grateful for generous acts of service like this.

Regardless of how you gift this year, I hope you enjoy it more than usual. Whether you adjust your own giving expectations and give more simply, or whether you change your attitude to give more joyfully, I love picturing your heart full of those happy Christmas feelings. Happy for you, because you're making it happy for others.

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