Every year I write about creating a holiday spending plan. And it IS a good subject. The bottom line is that if you create a plan- list out who you are going to gift, your ideas, and the cost, and then add it up, it becomes a great roadmap for the holidays—you have less stress and more money. So here is my link to last year’s post. (How to create a Holiday Spending Plan post.)
This year I want to ask a question– is it time to do something different? The holidays are a huge “production” for many people. And it can be quite expensive, from decorating and travel to holiday outings and gifts. Many families have rituals around gift giving that haven’t changed in years. And people do need time to think about changing a ritual or tradition. So I submit to you that Thanksgiving may be a great time to bring up potential changes with your family.
This year, I had been mulling in my mind the idea of exchanging fewer gifts at the large family dinner we do each year. So when I emailed my sister about the Thanksgiving plans, I mentioned in my email that I’d love to talk about shifting how we exchanged gifts, at some point on Thanksgiving Day. She sent me back an immediate enthusiastic reply. My mother, who was copied on these emails, chimed in: “Well, if we’re going to give fewer gifts, you guys have to promise you’ll play some games on Christmas because I want to make sure we spend enough time together.”
My mother knew that part of our gift giving ritual was a way to spend time with each other- I come from a family that has a long drawn out gifting ritual. Each person takes a turn opening a gift while everyone pays attention. The gift may cost only ten dollars, but everyone watches. It’s a ritual we’ve repeated for decades.
So now we are thinking of doing something new. And the family knows we’ll talk about it at Thanksgiving.
Here are some ideas for your family to ponder:
Gift Limit- this is the obvious one, and many adults welcome it. What if there was simply a pre-arranged limit, so you knew that you were supposed to bring one gift (not two or three) for certain people?
Drawing Names- an oldie but goodie. Adults love this one too. On Thanksgiving everyone puts their name in a hat and then draws a name out. Then there is a limit set on how much you can spend. This is an important part of the “game”.
Give a family gift instead of individual gifts. It depends on how many people are at your gathering, but your extended family may welcome this idea.
Decide to only do gifts for children.
Edible gift idea: Decide to only gift things that are edible or drinkable and set a price limit. Adults LOVE this one.
Play White Elephant at the family gathering. This is a very fun and silly game and the entire extended family will LOVE it. And it’s about presents!! When I was growing up, this is what we played at the extended gatherings that had 30+ people. (Yes, I come from a large catholic gamily.) Everyone brings one gift- likely something silly (probably re-gifted or found in the garage) —with no name on it. Then you draw numbers and the game begins. Here is a link with directions and rule variations. (White elephant on Wikipedia.) This game involves a lot of shouting, running, trading and laughing. And spilled drinks.
Dollar Store giving—People have been going crazy with stocking gifts. So one idea is to say that stockings can only be stocked with items from the dollar store. (Okay, this one doesn’t fit my list perfectly, but the whole expensive-gift-in-the-stocking drives me crazy.)
I could go on and on. The point though, is to think about your gifting ritual. Do you want to change it? If you do, than Thanksgiving is a great time to open the conversation. Or simply send some emails out to your family. And if you have a small family, than just sit down and talk about new ideas for gifting. What ideas do other people have?
The point is to have fun, craft a gifting ritual that is intentional and create a holiday you love. And wouldn’t it be lovely if you could avoid that post-holiday spending hangover? Now that’s real holiday magic.