I have a friend who works at a loan company. She starts getting busy around August -- because her offices are flooded with people taking out loans for their holiday shopping. And she stays busy well into the new year -- because a huge percentage of those people default on their loans. Why do we feel compelled to go so deeply in DEBT buying gifts? It seems as though every year the bar is raised -- we are expected to spend more and more.
And where does all this spending get us? I can't tell you how many of my organizing clients have literally piles of old Christmas gifts buried in their closets -- items for which they really have no use, but feel guilty about cleaning out. I'm pretty sure that the holidays are not supposed to be about debt, guilt, and clutter! But you can also take steps on the "giving" side to make the holiday less stressful -- for both you and the recipient:
LIMIT THE NUMBER OF GIFTS PER PERSON
Some families feel like they need to have lots of presents under the tree for it to be a happy holiday. We finally had to ask our family to stop loading us down with a lot of "stuff" each year (although in much nicer terms!) We have limited our giving to one gift per person. And it's made such a positive impact (less pressure, stress, and expense) that no one complains about having less to open on Christmas morning!
DRAW A NAME
I learned this technique from a big family (we're talking 12 kids plus grandkids and extended family!) that couldn't afford to buy gifts for everyone. Each year, they all put names in a hat -- everyone pulls a name and buys a gift for that one person. That way, everyone gets a gift, and no one has to feel strapped during the holidays. then they plan a big party on Christmas morning where everyone opens their gifts.
FOOD IS ALWAYS A GREAT GIFT
Food is a great option -- especially when you like to give a little something to everyone you know. Bake a huge batch of cookies or make sausage balls -- or even the dreaded fruitcake (it's actually pretty good when it's homemade!) Then wrap a small bundle in colored cellophane and top with a bow. It's festive, it's inexpensive, it comes from the heart, it will eventually disappear (reducing clutter) -- and everyone loves to eat!
MAKE YOUR OWN GIFT BASKETS
Gift baskets have become the hip and happening gift over the last few years. You can customize the contents to the recipient's interests and hobbies. But paying a gift basket company to put one together for you can cost more than a traditional store-bought gift. I will shop sales throughout the year finding neat little "gizmos" that would go well in a gift basket -- a kitchen tool for my sister who loves to cook or something "cow" themed for my friend -- and stash them away until the holidays. I also look for practical (a colander) or funky (a cow-shaped cookie jar) containers to use in place of the basket. The result is a gift that I had fun putting together, that really means something to the recipient, and that costs less than looks like it should!
GIVE AN EXPERIENCE RATHER THAN A THING
You don't always have to give "stuff" when a gifting occasion comes around. Some of the best presents I have ever received were events rather than "things." And they don't have to be expensive -- one memorable gift for me was a day out with my friends at a state park (hiking, canoeing, and a picnic lunch). You can build some great memories, spend some quality time -- and you don't have to worry about your gift getting dusty or broken!
GIVE A HANDMADE GIFT
Handmade gifts have gotten a bad rap in the past -- as being cheesy or poorly made. But you can put together some pretty cool handmade gifts. At least half of my Christmas decorations are made by someone in my family -- and I get compliments each year on how nice they look. With craft stores springing up in abundance around the country, you can find tons of great high-quality, low-cost gift ideas. Handmade gifts have a "homey" feel that bought presents often lack -- and you get the satisfaction of knowing that you created it yourself. And if you really want to turn on the old heart light, give a gift that one of your kids made!
GIVE A GIFT CERTIFICATE
Gift certificates have also gotten a bad reputation -- you couldn't think of anything else, so you got a gift certificate. I happen to think that gift certificates are an excellent option, because it allows the person to get what they really WANT or NEED. And your gift certificates don't have to be store-bought. You can give gift certificates for chores or events -- babysitting or a night on the town. I recently gave a friend of mine a gift certificate for a day of horseback riding and sushi (?!) -- two things her husband doesn't care for -- and she loved it.
MAKE A CHARITABLE DONATION
This gift shows the real spirit of the season. You can choose from a variety of non-profit organizations -- from adopting a whale to planting a tree to making a contribution to the Kidney Foundation. And hopefully your selflessness and concern for those around you will inspire others to do the same.
GIVE A PIECE OF NOSTALGIA
One year, I made photo albums for my sisters. I gathered up pictures of our parents and grandparents, them as children, family events we had attended together, and important moments in their lives. It was simple and inexpensive and I had a nice trip down memory lane putting it together. And I don't know if I've ever gotten a better response to a Christmas gift. Anything that reminds people of the "good old days" is always well-received.
Ramona Creel is a Professional Organizer and the founder of OnlineOrganizing.com -- a web-based one-stop shop offering everything that you need to get organized at home or at work. At OnlineOrganizing.com, you may get a referral to an organizer near you, shop for the latest organizing products, get tons of free tips, and even learn how to become a professional organizer or build your existing organizing business. And if you would like to read more articles about organizing your life or building your business, get a free subscription to the "Get Organized" and "Organized For A Living" newsletters. Please visit http://www.OnlineOrganizing.com or contact Ramona directly at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.