That perfect gift – part 1

Here in the northern hemisphere it is the darkest, coldest season of the year. Bears hibernate during this season. Honey bees retreat into the hive and huddle together for survival. Many other insects simply die. Trees lose their foliage as the sap flows deep inside. The tops of other plants die off completely for many months while growth only occurs underground. Most living species in this ecosystem respond to the absence of light and the plummeting temperatures by drawing inward for a long period of quiet regeneration. Except humans, who plan parties, decorate their homes, and flock like manic lemmings to shopping malls.

It has always felt crazy to me to participate in the ritual consumption orgy we call Christmas. It creates a flurry of activity precisely when the soul is craving quiet, and it seems obscene how much useless junk is exchanged, to the financial detriment of everyone but the stores. I don’t even like other people picking out my stuff!

The 11th way to save money

Samuel Peery wrote a great article about 10 ways to save money this Christmas. I would add an 11th suggestion that I humbly claim has the potential to save you more money than the other 10 put together – just don’t do it! The very best way to save money on your Christmas shopping is to simply stop participating in the compulsory insanity. Instead, take naps, build fires, read books, watch movies, play games, listen to music, snuggle, talk and sip cocoa.

In the last couple of years I have opted out of ALL holiday gift exchanges. It has been astonishingly liberating, and actually very easy. All I did was talk to my family and friends and negotiate a cease fire. Everyone involved has seemed relieved.

I am now free to hibernate a bit in this coldest, darkest month. I have noticed that lights and decorations seem prettier and the connections I do make with family are far more enjoyable now that I am more in sync with my inner hibernating bear.

But giving gifts is fun, you say. I agree, it can be. Especially when it is optional, and you are not exhausted. If that is something you enjoy, by all means do it. But if not, my suggestion would be to knock yourself out buying birthday presents for the people you genuinely want to give gifts to, and give the Christmas thing a rest.

Make your list and check it twice

I must admit the kid in me does get stimulated by the holiday ads into remembering how fun it feels to want really cool stuff. But I would suggest that instead of hoping other people will buy the right stuff for you, it might feel better to channel that energy into getting the things on your REAL wish list. What do you want in your life? How are your relationships, your health, your job? Do you like your home? What do you do that brings you satisfaction and joy? What would you like to learn?

While advertisers are doing a full court press encouraging us to exchange material things, considering taking the opportunity to stay inside, be quiet and write down what you really want in your life. Winter is a great time to take some quiet time to reflect on what you have accomplished in the past year and begin to look forward to what you would like to become in the next. If you’re looking for inspiration, LifeHacker posted about a great article last week on thinking about your goals.

It’s worth taking the time to record your thoughts as carefully as you might compose a list for Santa, because after all you are the benefactor who will deliver those results to yourself long after the winter decorations have been packed away. And if you really want to do something for someone else, encourage them to do the same.

It is the realization of our dreams, rather than baubles and trinkets (or even that new 42″ plasma TV), that make us feel good. Starting the new year rested and unsaddled by debt will go a long way toward helping you to achieve those goals. And the ideas you generate will become fertile material to inform your personal ad campaigns for the rest of the year.

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  1. Steve
    Posted December 6, 2006 at 7:09 am | Permalink

    Wow, in my opinion it would be rude to not buy a gift or two for others during the holidays. It also seems pretty self-centered to just sit at home, drink cocoa, watch movies, and think about your own life. I’ve got plenty of time when I retire to do that.

    And it’s made to seem that getting a few gifts would take up all of your time. Sheesh, I might go out shopping for a few evenings and that’s it – why is that so difficult? Sure, it’s a bit stressfull, but I actually *want* to get gifts for friends and family. And hey, it took all of 10 minutes to make my own list of gifts. Also, I’m planning on going out shopping with a few friends and we might actually have fun doing it!

    Nah, nevermind everyone else, I’ll just sit inside and dwell on my own life plan instead and make sure I’m warm and cozy.

    On one end you have someone who DOES drive themselves absolutely nuts trying to please everyone, then on the other hand you have someone else who doesn’t want to put themselves out at all and intead gives up. I think that there’s a happy medium somewhere!

  2. Posted December 7, 2006 at 5:14 am | Permalink

    Different people have different ideas about Christmas and we all should have the freedom to spend it as we choose, whether that means to shower our friends and family with gifts, or to drink hot cocoa and watch a movie with mom.

    Culture and background make a difference. I have no Christian background and Christmas actually means nothing to me. We got small gifts as children and when we grew up we had gift exchanges, but always with a maximum amount of money we could spend on it. We still have a similar thing going on, but mostly we just get together, cook nice food (decent tasty and not too expensive food) and play games or just chat. We don’t get together for the gifts or the food, we get together for the company of family.

    December for me, is that time of the year where I happily curl up on my sofa with a good book or movie and hot chocolate.

    Selfish? Perhaps. Expecting me to buy gifts sounds a bit selfish as well…

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