It’s that time of year again. Time to go out and buy gifts for everyone and have the pleasure of hearing the same 5 songs played on repeat in each store. I can’t believe Christmas is already here again. It seems like time keeps going by faster and faster.
As I’ve gotten deeper into the FIRE movement this year, I realize my mindset on Christmas has changed quite a bit. I used to look forward to this holiday with a bit of a materialist mindset. Getting gifts wasn’t the only thing I looked forward to though. I enjoy celebrating Jesus’ birth and getting together with friends and family. Eating a bunch of good food is also nice and I usually gain a couple of pounds this time of year.
I still enjoy the food, friends, and family. It seems I’ve lost any desire to receive gifts though. I know I’m going to receive gifts, and I’m sure I’ll like them, but I don’t need to accept a gift for my holidays to be complete. I guess this feeling comes from a combination of getting older and realizing I don’t need stuff to be happy. I’ve got way more than I need and find more fulfillment in creating things and the relationships I have, rather than obtaining physical objects.
I wish America shared this feeling with me. Although none of the gift giving is necessary, people are going to stress out, get in fights, and some people may even die over cheap items that are going to end up broken in a few years.
The expectation of giving gifts
I’m not opposed to giving gifts, I think we’ve gone way overboard though. I know it’s hard not to overspend on gifts when you’re hit with marketing everywhere you look, but I sure wish we could slow down on the gifts. Most of the retail stores make over half of their annual profits in the last couple of months of the year. That alone should tell us we’re over doing it.
People are going into debt to give gifts. This is crazy to me. If you don’t have the money to buy someone something, you should tell them that. Sure, it might be embarrassing, but we need to be more open about our money and stop trying to keep up appearances. The people you’re going into debt for probably have way more than they need anyways. You need to take care of your house first and if that means letting some people down on Christmas, so be it.
What if we didn’t give gifts?
If we eliminated gifts completely, think about what kind of impact that would have. No one would have to stress about buying the perfect thing for several people. We would all save a lot of money. There would be a lot less traffic and less wrecks/deaths. There would be less anger/fighting in general. We could use the money we saved to give to the needy or make the world a better place in some way.
I know getting/giving gifts can be a lot of fun, but why is that? What makes getting a gift so enjoyable? I guess it is partly the thought that someone was thinking of you when they bought it. The gift might be fun to use or be something new to you, which could spark some excitement. What else though? Unless it’s a sentimental object, the gifts probably don’t have much meaning beyond the thought and the newness. Once the newness wears off, you probably won’t care about the item anymore. How many Christmas gifts are you still enjoying today that you got from Christmas’ over a year ago?
Again, I don’t think we should completely stop giving gifts, but I think it is time to scale things down. There has been tension at some of my family gatherings over gift giving. We never set the price limit above $25 and there has been tension. The tension takes away a lot of the good feelings that come with Christmas time and it’s really quite sad.
Another thing to think about when it comes to gifts is that each second you spend thinking about shopping is one less second you could spend with family or doing something more meaningful.
Focus on the meaningful things
I struggle with this myself, but I’d like to get better at it. I’m a Christian, so I need to focus more on Christ this time of year. I should think about family more and be there for them. I need to sacrifice more of my time and money to help those in need.
It’s funny, we’d be happier if we focused more on our relationships and the more meaningful things in life, but we choose to stress about the gift giving instead. We’re denying ourselves true happiness and trading it for more stress/expenses.
I guess I’m just writing this to challenge myself and maybe some of you to think differently this time of year. What are your thoughts on gift giving and is there anything you would change about the holidays?