Little Rodney on Christmas Eve.
Could not wait to tear up those gifts the next morning.
Yes, that's a Polaroid and plastic furniture coverings. (It was the late 70s, ok?)
Was it just me or did December just rush up on us like Santa with a cookie craving?
Sure enough, we're upon another season of holiday merriment. The Thanksgiving leftovers are gone, we lament over how much we ate and how we're gonna start a new exercise program in January and our local stores and radio stations are playing the holiday soundtracks. Regardless of how you celebrate, there's no denying that as we approach the end of the year, the world slows down a little bit, holiday parties abound and if we're fortunate, we get to spend a few days in the company of loved ones.
However, if you're a parent or someone who simply has children in your life, you may find that this season carries a particular stress: that of gift-giving. As a young child, I remember waking up on December 25th eager to find what was waiting for me under the tree. It never occurred to me until I became the parent that while gift giving is a joy, it can also cause financial stress.
I believe that in the U.S., we place outsized emphasis on consumerism at this time of year. I'll be the first one to tell you that I like shiny new things and getting shiny new things for my loved ones, but I've taken so many trips to department stores trying to figure out what everyone likes and wants and then cringing at the number that totals on the register. ("Yes, I'll take a gift receipt for that!) I won't use this space to go off on American consumerism. If you'd like to hear my thoughts on it, please check out the great conversation I had with Ash Cash here.
If you are looking to get gifts for the young people in your life, but aren't sure how to do it and worried about overspending, I have a couple of recommendations. One is an old rubric that I hadn't heard of before a few years ago (thanks, Adriana!) and the other is a more modern option.
Gift Giving Rubric
When my friend Adriana told me about this, I thought it was brilliant. It simplified holiday shopping for my kids and allowed me to actually include them in the process. There are four categories that make a simple rhyme: Something You Want, Something You Need, Something to Wear and Something to Read.
I really like this approach because it allows you to ask your children to consider both their wants and needs and takes the focus off things like expensive electronic toys and gadgets. There's room for some of that, but it helps children to be thoughtful and balanced about not just what they're receiving, but how you're giving. I've also found that it doesn't detract from the joy of opening their presents.
A friend of mine introduced me to the founder of an awesome initiative called Goalsetter. This website allows you to either create GoalCards (instead of gift cards) in any amount for a young person or to financially support a child's goals. Suppose a young person wants to travel to another country to learn a different language. That goal can be set up on Goalsetter and her friends and family can contribute to making that a reality. It teaches the importance of setting objectives, communicating them and enlisting support. It also allows you to give in a way that's meaningful for you. You can learn more about Goalsetter here.
Do you have any other suggestions? Would love to hear from you!