I’ve seen quite a few blog posts recently about folks that are giving up gift giving for Christmas. I’ve also seen a number of people recommend a donation to a charity as a good gift idea. I’m going to throw my thoughts out there on these topics. I think some folks have weighed too heavily in the anti-consumerism direction, and it’s time for a reality check. A number of these folks are on my list of favorite bloggers too, yet still I feel I must disagree with them on a few items. I also have a few suggestions to throw into the pot.
Let’s just get it out in the open. Most of us are going to buy some gifts for loved ones this Christmas. It’s fun to buy things; it’s fun to give; and it’s fun to receive. I don’t know about you, but I love tearing open gift wrap to find the surprise contained within. When I think back to the Christmases of my childhood, I recall many exciting Christmases that culminated in the opening of presents. For weeks I would see presents pile up under the tree. It would start with just a gift or two and slowly grow to a big pile of presents. The anticipation was almost too much to bear. I’d look at the presents, analyze the shape, shake the box a little, and try to guess what surprise each wrapped present contained. That in and of itself created great memories.
Of all the bloggers that are going gift free, most are still buying or making some things for their kids. Christmas is magical for kids. Sure you can try to limit the impact of consumerism and choose toys carefully or limit the number of gifts, but please don’t ruin Christmas for your kids.
Suggestion number 1 – Wrap lots of stuff
Even if you are going light on gifts this year, wrap lots of stuff. It could be a single candy bar, an old teddy bear long since forgotten, hand crafted items, tickets to event, of gift cards. Just make sure you wrap it. Unwrapping is the best part. It is a magical feeling to unwrap a surprise, even if it’s not the whiz-bang 5000. Or even if you only get one whiz-bang 5000, it’s never enough to unwrap a single item. Kids should have a bunch of stuff under the tree to experience the joy of unwrapping and the pleasure of discovering the surprise.
I can see where the feelings are coming from when folks talk about a giftless Christmas. We are moving away from giving items to most of the extended family, and are instead giving gifts of experience. This meant for the 13 people on my wife’s side of the family, our gift purchase was completed with a single phone call. My side of the family will see similar results. This actually meant, that for extended family we aren’t going visit a single store. It feels fantastic to not be rushing around the crowded malls and toy stores.
For our daughter however, we will be buying some toys. She loves to play, and part of her play includes toys. That has meant a couple of trips to a couple of stores, but that is fun shopping, because our daughter is the most special person in the world to us, so we get the joy of surprising her with gifts she’s mentioned throughout the year and on thoughtfully added to her wish list.
Another reason I see people discussing giftless or more carefully thought out gifts is because in today’s society, full of inexpensive doodads, whenever we need something, we buy it. Maybe in the olden days people would wait until Christmas, but today we buy what we need when we need it. That makes gift giving a lot harder. There aren’t many good gift items that are a necessity or even a luxury. More often than not it’s just unneeded junk.
Suggestion number 2 – Gifts of experience
Consider gifts of experience. Things like sporting event tickets, family trips together, tickets to a play, show, or movie, or other activities that can be done together. These are gifts that will be remembered long after all the ‘physical’ gifts items are forgotten, broken, or given away. For example, we gave out tickets to the monster truck show last year, and it still gets talked about at family gatherings.
I am seeing a lot of buzz about giving the gift of charitable donations. I’m going to flat out say it. Do not give me a gift of a donation to charity. If I want to donate to a charity, I’ll do it myself. I have strong opinions on certain charities, and if you made a donation to one on my behalf, that would be an anti-gift.
For example, I enjoy driving my Jeep in the woods. I drive on legal trails and roads in order to explore the outdoors and enjoy nature. Some environmental organizations that may actually do good work in certain areas are opposed to forest users traveling by vehicle. In fact many are actively trying to close trails to vehicle traffic so the forest may remain in a pristine condition that can’t actually be seen and enjoyed by anyone. If someone who knew of my love for the outdoors donated to one of those organizations on my behalf, I’d actually be a little miffed.
One other thing I have yet to see anyone mention when discussing charitable donations as Christmas gifts is the associated tax deductions. If I get a gift noting that a donation has been made in my honor, the first thing I’m going to think is, “great, I get nothing and the giver gets a tax deduction.” Yes, I have a selfish streak. I couldn’t find much info on the web, but from what I could tell, the giver gets the tax deduction. If anyone knows more about the tax implications of giving the gift of a charitable donation, please share in the comments section.
Honestly, if you are going to make a donation to charity in my honor, I’d rather just hear that you decided to donate to charity instead of giving gifts. Really that’s what you are doing, so we may as well call it what it is.
Suggestion number 3 – Think twice about charitable donations as a gift
Before gifting a charitable donation in the honor of someone, carefully consider the person you are donating to and whether they would be happy to receive a gift of this nature. Charity donations are often very personal in nature. I would compare it to giving a gift of undergarments. If you don’t know the person well enough to buy them a new pair of underwear, you might want to carefully consider whether a charitable donation is an appropriate gift. If you still think a donation is a great gift then go for it! If the giver and receiver are open to it, I think a charitable donation would make a great gift.
I’m not completely refuting everything the Giftless/Charity Gift crowd is preaching. Most are simply venting against a consumerist society, and there is merit in that. Others are looking at it in a more practical matter, as many people go into serious debt during Christmas. And, in general, giving to charity is a wonderful thing. Even so, I think the majority of society isn’t ready for these messages. That’s part of what bloggers do though, is to share the messages that society isn’t ready to here. It’s what I typically do here as well. If you want one that society really isn’t ready to hear, check out my post on gifting only to the person you love the most. Today though, I’m taking a more realistic stance, hoping to skirt the line between the over commercialized version of Christmas, and the no gift version. I believe there is some middle ground, and I think that’s the sweet spot to be in this wonderful holiday season.
Love it? Hate it? Let me hear from you in the comments section.