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Out of Control Spending On Gifts and Holidays

By Erik Folgate

I love to give. One of my favorite ways to show appreciation, affection, or just simply make someone happy is to give them a gift. I honestly don’t do it, because I am obsessed with materialism. I just know that receiving an unexpected, thoughtful gift brings can really brighten up someone’s life. The keyword in that sentence is “thoughtful”. Just as much as I enjoy giving gifts, I hate giving gifts just for the sake of giving something. I like putting thought into gifts, and I am not a big fan of receiving a gift with no thought put into it. Before you jump on me, let me explain myself.

There is a time and place for unthoughtful gifts. Gesture gifts are a different animal. If you are giving a small gift to a client for a referral or a business partner, then you don’t need to put a lot of thought into the gift. It’s purpose is to show appreciation for something a person did for you.

I am still grateful for unthoughtful gifts. You should always be grateful and cordial when receiving an unthoughtful gift, even if you’ll never use it. But usefulness is my main reason for not liking gifts with no thought put into it. If you would have thought for a minute about my interest and needs, you would have been able to get me a gift that I can use.

Why Are We So Obsessed With Gift Giving?

Did you know that many family’s homes look like Christmas on Easter? Seriously, gift giving on Easter? For Christmas, one gift doesn’t suffice anymore. If kids don’t have at least 10 gifts, the economy must be in recession, right? If you don’t buy your spouse four or five gifts, there’s a problem. Why has an emphasis been placed on quantity over quality? I’d much rather receive a $100 gift from my wife than five different $25 gifts. She would save $25! Have you ever received a graduation announcement from an acquiantance’s child? Hey, I’m glad you graduated, but I’m not going to feel obligated to send you money! Have you been invited to multiple wedding/baby showers and bought a gift for both showers? Gift giving is getting out of control.

We Are The Most Celebratory Nation In The World

We celebrate everything. Corporations love this country, because there’s always a holiday coming up that we’ll spend money on. Think about how much money you spend every year on worthless pseudo-holidays like Halloween and Valentine’s Day? Now throw in holidays that mean something like Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving, and Independence Day, and your spending a lot of disposable income just to celebrate a holiday! I am completely guilty of this, but I have managed to make a conscious effort not to spend a lot of money on non-holidays like Halloween, Valentine’s Day, and St. Patrick’s Day. I love parties, and I love being with people. I am not opposed to spending money on holidays if it means you’ll be having fun with your friends and family, but I just think we need to watch what we spend money on during the holidays.

Five Ways To Spend Less Money On The Holidays

  1. Halloween: make your own costume if going to a costume party.
  2. Thanksgiving: Have a pot-luck Thanksgiving dinner with family and/or friends.
  3. Christmas: Do a Secret Santa gift exchange with your immediate family and put a dollar amount limit on the gift.
  4. Valentine’s Day: Cook a great meal for your woman, pack it up, and go to your favorite outdoor spot for a picnic. For people in snow, re-create your first date, unless it was a really expensive first date!
  5. Fourth of July: Instead of buying fireworks, go to the best fireworks show in town, and have people over beforehand for beer, hamburgers, and watermelon!

Three Alternatives To An Expensive Gift

  • Quality Time. It’s the best gift you could give anyone, especially with parents. Offer to spend the day with your mom or dad, and it’s better than anything you could have bought them.
  • Make a Gift. Even if you aren’t crafty, you can blow up a photo and frame it.
  • Offer your services. Get your mind out of the gutter! I’m talking about helping someone out like free babysitting, lawn service, professional service (i.e. legal, accounting), or something else that has a great value but just costs you time rather than money. Yes, I know that time is money, but not on the weekend!

Got any more tips for spending less on gifts and the holidays? Share them with us below!

Erik Folgate
Erik and his wife, Lindzee, live in Orlando, Florida with a baby boy on the way. Erik works as an account manager for a marketing company, and considers counseling friends, family and the readers of Money Crashers his personal ministry to others. Erik became passionate about personal finance and helping others make wise financial decisions after racking up over $20k in credit card and student loan debt within the first two years of college.

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  • Alan

    Your article on this blog is fantastic.
    Well done! I’m a big fan of your blog and be sure to keep up the great work.
    I plan on returning and linking to your site.
    Alan H.

  • Elizabeth I

    A couple ways to save less:

    One way to spend less on gifts is to simply have a budget–start it 12 months before Christmas. I know it isn’t “sexy”. Don’t start a Christmas budget for people in December. This way you accrue money each month and do not over spend in December.

    Shop in the summer for all Christmas gifts. Then wrap them in September. You won’t feel so “emotional” shopping for Christmas gifts in July and feeling that you need to buy something bigger or better. If you wrap the gifts you will feel that you are “done” with shopping and won’t be tempted to buy more around Christmas because everyone else is shopping.

    One of the cheapest and best gifts I have found is taking a $10 picture at Sears-do it with extended family. One day those family members won’t be around and you will be grateful for the pictures.

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