Today is Christmas. I have a love hate relationship with this holiday. I love it because it really is a magical time of year. With all the decorations, lights, music, movies, and food, you can't help but get caught up by the spirit of Christmas.
What I hate about it is the gift giving. What likely started out as a nice gesture between loved ones turned into a need for parents to make sure they give their kids everything they want. How can they not? Their kids deserve to get what they want, just like their friends deserve to get what they want from their parents. It is one giant keeping-up-with-the-Jones's tradition.
My parents certainly ensured my four siblings and I got what we wanted each and every Christmas even though most times, they were broke and could not afford it. And if they couldn't personally afford something on our list, they would always work aunts, uncles, and grandparents into making sure they got us what we wanted. It is really quite sad to think about now.
Don't get me wrong, the feeling on Christmas morning as a kid was awesome. You can see the excitement in our home movies. From video games to Legos to sports equipment to even a go-cart one year, we always got incredible gifts and were truly blessed.
However, looking back on it, I don't think it was worth it. We would still have been happy kids without the plentitude of gifts. Plus my parents could have used that money to get their financial house in order and maybe even start investing some it. And there is the hidden cost on the environment with the packaging and the fact that most toys and gifts don't get used nearly as much as intended and end up in going to Goodwill or a landfill.
It is all too easy to get caught up in the gift giving season. After all, that is the state marketers want us to be in, especially now that you can shop right from the phone in your pocket. Resist the urge. Try to really think through the gift itself, who you are giving it to, and what they will do with it a year from now. If you think they will really treasure and use the gift, maybe it's worth it. If you don't see them using it for more than a couple times, then save your money. Chances are they will get more joy out of spending time with you then receiving a gift, or perhaps there is some other way to recognize them for how special they are to you.
And that is really the spirit of Christmas, to recognize how special people are to us. With the right frame of mind and spirit in your heart, I have no doubt that you can find a better approach to gift giving. Always make sure your financial house is in order before you give any gifts, and as most things in life, choose quality over quantity and choose personal/handmade over generic.
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