The Gift is in the Giving. Responsibly.

Budgeting for ChristmasThe sleigh bells are ringing, chestnuts are roasting and Rudolph is working out to prepare for a long night of making children’s dreams come true. The holidays are a time for goodwill, good memories and family fun.

If you’re dealing with debt or trying to stick to a financial plan, Christmas can become a time of financial burden more than a time to be merry. Everyone wants to feel the euphoria of watching someone open that perfectly selected gift, but sometimes you have to find that joy in the intangibles. “The best of all gifts around any Christmas tree: the presence of a happy family all wrapped up in each other.” Burton Hills.

In today’s era of self-indulgence, gift-giving can become not only a challenge as if it falls in your budget, you’ve probably already bought it. It’s the thoughtful gifts that tend to stand out and be remembered. If you’re crafty, why not make a Christmas ornament or decoration for the people you need to buy for. Memorialize a shared memory (family-appropriate of course) either inside the ornament or scripted on it. This will give those you love pause every year when they’re decorating their tree, bringing a smile to their face as they recall that moment.

Perhaps it’s looking at those around you and recognizing where they need help. Create a gift certificate for free babysitting for your siblings or better yet, give that gift to the young ones in your life. This not only makes them feel very important, it also gives them a free pass to escape their reality when they choose to do so. For your aging parents, you can make them laugh by doing the chores they always wanted you to get done. Show up every week and shovel their walk, or mow their lawn in the summer. Better yet, take a moment to just sit and listen to their stories. They have a lifetime of knowledge accumulated and very rarely get the chance to share it.  “Christmas is doing a little something extra for someone.” Charles M. Schulz.

A client recently told me how her mother wrote out her Christmas Wish List and gave it to all her kids. That wish list told them how proud she was of them and outlined her wishes to only see her children happy. It reminded them to smile and take a moment to remember who loves them. She included the gift of time. It was time to be spent with family at a chosen outing doing something together. The client said it was the gift of a lifetime.

With some friends and family, gifts are still a central focus of the holidays. Reach out to those in your circle and see if anyone else would be willing to change to a secret Santa or a one-person gift list. By streamlining the recipient list, you can expand your budget a little and really spend time thinking about what to get them. It may be too late this year, but it’s something to think about for next year.

It is a season of giving and you can be creative in what you give. A hug, a phone call, a smile are gifts in the eye of the beholder. It’s time to remember the true spirit of Christmas.