You’re not alone. Year after year, consumers continue to spend, gift and re-gift merchandise out of obligation, guilt, duty or just plain habit. We receive items we can’t even describe as wedding gifts, but hang on to them for years out of obligation. After all, it was a gift from Aunt Gertrude and we don’t want to hurt her feelings.
One of the most appreciated aspects of my sessions with clients is “giving permission” to let things go. But how lovely if all that “stuff” didn’t arrive in the first place.
This year, consider bucking the trend and starting some new traditions with your family and friends. Here are a few:
Give the Secret Santa office tradition the boot and start a charity drive instead. For years I worked in offices where we were expected to spend $20 on a gift for someone we hardly knew (and maybe even disliked). If instead, 100 employees spent the $20 on a book drive for foster children or food for the local food bank, imagine the difference that $2,000 would make in other people’s lives?
Are you passionate about the environment, animals or child welfare? Ask your friends to take the money they might spend on a gift for you and ask them to donate to your favorite cause instead. Most organizations will send a card or certificate honoring the donation to the person of your choosing.
How about a gift of time? Our baby-sitter gives us a night of free child care each year. Wow! Consider giving a friend a day of errand coupons (good for picking up dry-cleaning, returning an item to the store, mailing a package, etc.) Listen carefully to what your friends worry about and see if you can offer a solution. If your back can take it, offer to pull weeds in their garden for two hours, then plant a few annuals. Offer pet-sitting the next time they travel on business.
Perhaps you have a special skill you could share. Teach your friend how to knit, how to build a planter bed, or how to use photo software on a computer. Help someone build a web page, take a family photo or paint a room. Everyone is good at something.
Finally, if you still feel the need to give something tangible, consider a consumable gift, keeping in mind special diets, allergies and health issues. Remember, boxed chocolates to a Diabetic does not a gift make! Try home-made soups made from dry ingredients, seasoned olive-oils or your grandmother’s old fashioned tomato sauce.
Your wallet and your closet will thank you.