Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Giving Family Gifts for Holidays

People love to complain about the holidays and gift giving. While people enjoy giving the gifts, they don't seem to enjoy the process of gift-giving: Choosing a great gift for someone, buying it and wrapping it. And many people seem to think holiday spending is more than a bit out of control, especially in a society where so many can afford to buy pretty much whatever they want whenever they want or need it. Of course, we all want that big screen TV - but let's face it, most of us don't have anyone who can afford to give us that, and we can't really afford to give the big ticket gifts people can't get for themselves.

All of which makes for a frustrating gift-giving season. I can't afford the things people would really want, and what I can afford to get them, they could get themselves if they really wanted it - which makes me think they don't really want it or need it. So, I hit my head against a wall trying to come up with good, creative ideas for everyone in the family.

Well, this year, I'm cutting back on the insanity.

I'm buying family gifts.

Instead of finding the perfect (or not so perfect) gift for each individual, I'm going to buy gifts that they can use as a family, whether their family is one person and a dog or five children and two adult.

This solves a number of holiday problems.

First, it creates spending equity. I don't have to worry that I'm spending more on one child or go out and buy some chocolates at the last minute to make sure everybody gets the same amount. My brother, who has no kids, doesn't have to spend extra money on my family just because we have children. And my sister, who isn't married and has no children, gets as much as she gets because in our plan, she counts as a family.

Second, it will allow me to get gifts for more people. I have a lot of very good friends I don't buy for - and they don't buy for me - simply because we don't want to increase our shopping lists. But by buying family gifts, I'll only have to buy one gift - not four per family - for my friends.

Third, it limits my options, but in a good way. I don't have to choose two toys, two sweaters, and four books - all of which involves traveling to three stores at least. Instead, I can get one audio book, matching pajamas or one game. I can buy membership to parks, museums, zoos or get gift certificates for everyone at the local miniature golf.

Finally, giving family gifts affirms my belief that building family is important.

In my next post, I'll share some great family gift ideas. Please email or post your thoughts on family gifts, and I'll report back.

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Blogger Ed said...

At the risk of sounding like a Bible-thumper, I think this is an excellent idea because the annual orgy of commercialization and excess certainly is not designed to focus our minds on the important spiritual lessons of the season. It is designed to make some people money and others staggeringly guilty. Really, it is a sucker's game.

Check it out. Google the potlatch tradition of the Native Americans of the Pacific northwest. At the potlatch, the chief and other senior men would make demonstrations of their wealth and power by giving lavish gifts to the tribe. Over time, the gift giving got out of hand until it destroyed them as a people. Sound familiar.

It seems to me that we are on this treadmill of heightening expectations for Christmas. Every year the retail industry speeds the treadmill up, and every year unspoken expectations of reciprocity and thoughtfulness increase the incline. Every year sucks worse.

And absolutely nothing about it has anything to do with a Jewish kid being born in a barn or honing the spiritual discipline of giving or anything meaningful like that.

4:15 PM  

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