Practically Speaking

Kyle and her husband moved to Brookfield in 1986. She became active in local politics and started blogging in 2004. Her focus is primarily on local issues but often includes state and national topics, too. Kyle looks at things from the taxpayers' perspective in a creative, yet down to earth way, addressing them from a practical point of view.

More blessed to give than receive, so stop shopping!

Charity, Holidays, Living well on less $

A number of years ago, my family decided to quit giving Christmas presents to each other. As my witty husband said, if I want a personal gift, I will buy it personally.

Seriously though, we decided that we already have so much, what else could we possibly need? It seemed foolish to rack our brains trying to come up with gift lists, so we decided we would no longer exchange Christmas gifts. The time and aggravation saved from eliminating all those frustrating shopping trips is priceless. (You could say that is the best gift ever--not needing to shop!) The money saved can be put to better use: donations to your local church, favorite charities, wounded Vets, or supporting missionaries.

We were not total Scrooges though. Since our son was young at the time, we decided he would be the only one to receive and give gifts (he paid for them himself). Now that he is older, he still gives and receives a few gifts, but at least he does his own shopping!

When I still have to go to the mall or stores this time of year, some of the conversations between shoppers seem to be all the more glaring since I am not in the frenzy too. I want to suggest, No, Aunt Peggy really won't like "The Clapper", or Don't get that set of scented candles just so Margie has something to open

The Christmas oriented ads of I'm giving such 'n such salon gift certificates, I hope I get some too seem to go against the whole spirit of giving. 

Another benefit of not doing the gift thing is that you'll never have to say, You shouldn't have (because it is the ugliest thing ever) and you don't have all that stuff to find places for after Christmas has passed.

Evidentially, we are not the only family thinking along these lines. In Martha Stewart's December issue (page 184) she had some "hassle-free" holiday suggestions. Here are her tips on gifts:

Before Thanksgiving or soon thereafter, send an e-mail to your family members: "Buying gifts for everyone has gotten overwhelming. Does anyone else feel that way?" Then suggest alternatives--pulling one name each out of a hat, filling stockings for everyone with little things, or instituting a spending cap. You might also think outside the holiday box. What about forgoing gifts altogether and putting the money toward a family trip next summer of a big dinner at a great restaurant?

These are still pretty much self serving, but at least if gives some ideas of how to broach the subject. Maybe the family could pick a charity or project and all donate to that cause? Or pool their finances to fly Grandma and Grandpa to see their grandchildren?

If you can't bear the thought of Christmas with no gifts to open, how about a White Elephant exchange? The gift you bring can either be the tackiest thing you have around the house or a very nice item that you just don't have a use for. (Be sure to designate ahead of time which type of White Elephant it will be.) Sometimes they call this White Elephant exchange "Nasty Santa." It is a gift game where guests pick the gifts one at a time. Each picker in turn then has the option of picking a new gift or one already opened. If your opened gift is taken, then you can pick another's open gift or select an unopened one. At the end, the first opener has the option of exchanging with anyone's gift. My homeschool group had a lot of fun doing this.

Stopping the gift frenzy was the BEST decision for our family. It has helped us put the focus on the real meaning of Christmas. I can only encourage you to think about it and maybe discuss this idea when you gather with your family this Christmas. It could make your Christmas 2009 the merriest ever!

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