|Gary Foreman is a former Certified Financial Planner (CFP) who currently writes
about family finances and edits
The Dollar Stretcher website
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take your Christmas grab bag and be gone. Out, I tell you, or you'll
be seeking new employment!" That scene wasn't included in
Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" but I can easily
picture crotchety old Scrooge taking Bob Cratchit to task for
attempting to include him in an office holiday gift exchange.
Scrooge certainly is the symbol of someone who doesn't like
But, if you think about it, many of
us harbor Scrooge-like feelings today. We really don't want to
participate in yet one more gift exchange. We're out of both time
The sad fact is that for many of us,
Christmas shopping has become largely an obligation. We buy presents
because it's expected. Take a look at your list. How many gifts are
you buying because you really want to bless the person receiving it?
And how many fall into the "I gotta" category?
Part of the problem for all of us is
that most of the people that we buy for already enjoy material
wealth. They truly "don't need anything". In fact, your
present creates a problem for them.
Yes, I know that some think only a
real Scrooge would take people off of their gift list. But, I'd
disagree. Many of the gifts that you will give this season will
actually hurt the person you give them to.
Here's how. They really don't need
whatever you bought. It's just one more item to take up closet,
cabinet or attic space. You've put them one step closer to needing a
bigger house (with a bigger mortgage payment). You'll consume their
time and money without adding any enjoyment to their lives.
And, you'll diminish your own life,
too. Whether you consider this time of year to be an important part
of your faith or just a time of goodwill, rushing from store to
store will take your mind from the real meaning of the season. You
will be focused on things. Not on the relationships that are
important to your life. So I'd argue that it's really in the spirit
of the season to reduce the number of people on your gift list.
In fact, you'd be doing friends a
favor by not exchanging gifts. You'd both save the time spent buying
and wrapping the gift. If you truly value that person, it's much
better to get together for lunch or dinner and catch up on what's
happening in your lives.
OK, in some cases it's not practical
to drop people from your list. So how can you make the best of gift
Before you go shopping, consider why
you're buying each present. Decide which people on your list are
really important. You have a limited amount of time and money. Spend
them on the people who are truly important in your life.
Everyone else should be handled
without a big fuss. It's not that we don't like the people in our
office gift exchange. It's just that six months from now they won't
remember what you bought them.
An office party is a great place for
a gag gift. Thrift stores can provide an assortment of items that
can be used for funny gifts. Stuffed animals, clothing, coffee mugs
and toys are fertile ground for the imagination. Is the recipient a
stickler for time? An old alarm clock could be good. One where the
hands have been removed is even better.
Many of us have far away relatives
and friends. Unless you're particularly close, you might as well
admit that you really don't know what they already have or what they
need. So no matter what you get there's a good chance that it will
need to be returned. Rather than combing the malls hoping that the
perfect item will jump into your arms, why not consider a gift
certificate from a national chain of stores. Or, better still, agree
to a dollar amount that you will each spend on your own family. Do
your buying after Christmas and send the 'giver' a photo of the gift
that 'they bought'.
For local friends and relatives,
think about where your lives intersect. That's the place to begin
looking for a present. If you find that your lives have drifted
apart, it's better to spend time catching up instead of shopping.
Then there's those very special
people on your list. Your spouse, children and others who you truly
want to make happy with a gift. Remember that it's not how much you
spend. While it's nice to find a thoughtful gift for that special
someone, what they really want is you. The people that are most
important in your life want your time and attention. They want your
happiness. Don't disappoint them by picking something that's
expensive but impersonal.
Finally, please understand that this
isn't meant to imply that you shouldn't give to those who need help.
Not everyone in our world is blessed with the abundance that so many
of us have. And the less fortunate can use your gift. If you can
afford to, please participate in Angel Tree, the Salvation Army
kettles or other programs to help those who struggle. If you're
really in the holiday spirit you'll feel much better giving that new
sweater to a poor child rather than your Aunt Edna.
Nor is this meant to imply that you
should ignore the holidays. This is a wonderful time of year. My
hope is that you'd make the most of your resources and bring
happiness to the people who matter in your life.
Here's to a wonderful holiday for
everyone. Hopefully your holiday will be filled with joy and wonder.