This morning on my drive to work I head a woman speaking on being thrifty this time of year. Much of what she said struck a chord with me, but when she spoke of hating presents, I practically shouted, "YES!" I know this seems ridiculous, but I really do hate getting gifts. So often, it feels as though they are simply an opportunity for someone to show me how little they actually know me. There are a few people who have a knack for giving me something that truly speaks to my nature and passions and from them, receiving a gift is a thing of wonder. But mostly, it's just more stuff to stick in my house... and my house is full enough of stuff.
When you have kids, this problem seems to increase. Once, a dear friend of mine talked of watching a pair of women in a toy shop. They were looking at a plastic, made-in-China type toy that lit up, made noise and would make any self-respecting parent cringe after the third use. They were giggling over how obnoxious this toy was and yet, totally planning to get it for a friends child. She stepped up to the pair and asked, "Do you know what I think of people who buy this kind of toy for my child?" They blinked at her, "I think they must really hate me." I don't recall if the couple were then moved to make another choice, but I can't help but echo her sentiment every time someone gives the girls something along these lines. "Is that really how you feel about me?" I wonder.
Because of these feelings about gift receiving, I find it extremely stressful to give gifts as well. Not only is it often a huge financial drain, but so often it feels like I'm cluttering a person's life or showing off my lack of knowledge about their likes or dislikes. And if I'm going to spend money, I'd like it to mean something. My mom often resorts to just giving us money, compete with profuse apologies. Honestly, though, we always find the right thing to do with it, no matter how big or small the check is.
In fact, my mother's latest guilty check has allowed the Mister and I to attend the wedding of my dearest friend.
Without the kids (she's even keeping them for us).
Do you have any idea how exciting this is for us? If you're a parent, I'm sure you're yelling "BACK THE TRUCK UP!" My buddy Ben actually made me stop talking about it, the jealously was just too much.
Granted, she didn't pay for the whole thing, but her generosity is covering our housing. And OMG, did we score on the housing. We found a nice little place on VRBO that would accommodate us and two friends but in the middle of the contract process, the owner discovered she'd double booked. "I have another property though and I'll give it to you at the same price. I'm so sorry." The other place? Take a deep breath, prepare yourself and then click here.
Yep. All that and a bag of chips.
Of course, not it sounds like I'm saying you should just give people money as gifts, which wasn't actually the point I was trying to make. It also looks like I'm bragging about my trip. I am.
Anyway, the point about GIFTS is this: unless you know the person very very well and have discovered just the right thing to make their life more fulfilled and less cluttered, consider some different ideas:
- If your children go to the same school, offer to pack their kids lunch for a week
- Bring dinner over on an otherwise busy night where'd they'd otherwise resort to fast food
- Walk their dog when they're out of town
- Sponsor an art project in their name. You can donate to your favorite local theatre or check out Kickstarter for something in their town.
- Take them out for coffee
- Make your kids wash their car
- Be present in their life
Who else can add to my list? I'd love to see a collaborate list of ways to love in a fiscally responsible way. Bring it on.