The rough economic times and the holidays can present a real challenge for many people, as well as an opportunity. The holidays often mean among other things lots of giving and receiving. Traditionally the giving has been in the form of tangible things that are purchased and wrapped in a box under a Christmas tree.
If people are on a tight budget during the holidays it is a time for creativity in giving and celebrating. Christmas does not have to be celebrated the same way it has always been if it causes so much emotional and financial stress. It makes sense to reassess how to proceed when something unexpected happens. When it snows and the streets are icy you put off the 5 or 6 errands that you had planned and only do what is essential. If it snows enough you might even discover other activities that are more rewarding and substitute them for how you were living previously.
The difficulty with the holidays is that they bring up so many emotions. There is an image of an almost perfect picture of everyone spending time and having fun with lots of people they love and love them. There can be a feeling of disappointment that the real relationships do not quite measure up to this image. The emphasis on the connections being so conflict free and carefree is even more painful for people that don’t have strong connections with others throughout the year.
There is an image of abundance both emotionally and financially associated with this season. Often the picture and the reality are not 100% in sync, thus the post holiday blues. The temptation to spend money that people don’t have can be an attempt to fill this gap with stuff.
There are many ways to give and receive that don’t involve much money. Ironically or understandably these other ways are more likely to address the emotional needs that are trying to be fulfilled with lots of boxes under the tree.
There are numerous ways for people to give. They can give a friend a gift certificate for a massage, cook a meal for them, or wash their car. There are numerous things that people would appreciate loved ones doing for them. How about a parent making a list of things they would want from their child: A coupon from them promising to clean their room within 48 hours, or walking the dog,… maybe within 2 hours, write them a poem or a short story. How entertaining that could be.
How about a gift certificate to a child to spend an entire day together with a parent, or to teach them how to do something you know how to do. You could make a list of all the things that people ask you to do all year and you don’t take the time to do it. Make it into a gift certificate. What you are giving is your time, energy, knowledge, and skills. You have a lot to give.
You could barter gifts with friends and family. Offer to help them with something. If you are unemployed and have a skill you can offer this as a gift. How about putting names in a hat of everyone that usually buys a gift for each other and say we will all only buy 3 gifts this year instead of 10. Everyone could buy and receive 3 gifts instead of giving and receiving 10 gifts.
Have a discussion with your friends and family and let them know the emphasis this year is going to be on giving time and energy and doing things together. It's time to think outside the Gift box! Remember…. “Christmas came just the same”.