I really love giving gifts. I get into the whole thing, from actually buying/making something to choosing the perfect wrapping paper and bow. I think I’m pretty good at the art of gifting, because I really think about the person and put my heart and soul into the gift. Over the years I’ve done everything from writing poetry to buying the latest electronic gizmo.
This year, however, we can’t afford Christmas presents. There have been some years where I at least got something for my husband, but this year not even that seems prudent. olivesmarido is very frugal, you see, and would rather we save our money than spend money on something he doesn’t need. My present to him is cleaning the house every weekend for a year–and since his birthday is Sunday I’ll take him to dinner. But other than that, we just can’t afford it. This is too bad because I really wanted to get him tickets to see Avenue Q on Broadway.
He was originally going to get me an Amazon Kindle, but looking at our financial situation (I’m planning on spending the summer in Mexico again, and also will be starting graduate school next year and taking out copious amounts of student loans, and also we will be moving and will possibly need to purchase a car…) well you get the idea. Instead we canceled the order and have put the money into savings toward these upcoming expenses.
I assume everyone in our family for the most part to be understanding. It’s costing us a pretty penny to travel back to Michigan in January and since nobody we know has any place to put us, we’ll spend most of our nights in hotels. This adds up fast, so we’ve decided to get everyone a nice card. I’ve had more than one person in my family announce that they cannot afford Christmas presents this year, so I know we’re not the only ones who can’t afford it.
On the one hand, I wish we could do something, because I love giving just as much as I love receiving. On the other hand, the feeling of liberation from the burden of spending large chunks of money for no apparent reason is very nice. I am of the mind that you shouldn’t give unless you truly can afford it – nobody should have to go into debt over Christmas. That is, in fact, the exact opposite of what the holiday is supposed to be about.
I don’t expect anything from anyone, I just try to appreciate what is. I hope nobody feels like we didn’t care. For the last several years I have grown more and more impatient with the message that you must get presents to show people you really care. I think for a lot of people it’s an unreasonable expectation. I can’t tell you how many clients we have (in credit counseling) who call in dire straits every January because they blew all their money in December. It makes me a little bit angry that there is so much pressure on spending money. I would estimate that 50% of the people who give presents can actually afford it. I don’t think I should feel guilty at all about this, and yet I do.
So I’m curious–how many Dopers had to forgo gifts this year. How do you feel about the tradition of giving gifts? Like me, do you think the pressure exceeds the value? Is my thinking on this too black-and-white? Can we find a middle ground?