Giving More With Less This Christmas

Paul - Dorchester, Massachusetts
Entered on November 18, 2008

I believe that because many of us will have less this Christmas that we will actually be able to give more. The recent economic downturn has impacted everyone and will certainly change Christmas for thousands who have lost their jobs, those whose job security remains uncertain, and many who have seen their net worth and retirement accounts plummet.

But despite our pockets being somewhat emptier, I believe that as we approach the Christmas holiday season, the lack of disposable cash will allow us to give with quality if not quantity. In years past, gift-giving was frenetic and with little thought to the reason for giving. For most, this became the norm and was never emblematic of the season’s true meaning. Christmas has always been about giving, but somewhere along the line we replaced it with a pathological desire to spend beyond our means or an obligation to give “just because” presents to people of little importance in our lives.

Well, the economics of this season may dictate that we approach holiday giving differently and it’s my hope that, despite an inability to spend money like in years past, that we continue to give in abundance. Maybe there won’t be an overflow of brightly wrapped presents beneath the tree, and perhaps we won’t have to spend hours in department stores coming up with uninspired gift ideas as a perfunctory reaction to seasonal giving. But maybe; just maybe, we will finally give to others what we should have been giving all along to show how much we care for and love them. It’s possible that in a season where many of us will have less to spend, we will finally be able to give people more.

Consider the following Christmas tips:

1. Make certain that the kids still know it’s Christmas. Christmas has always been about the kids and if you’re going to buy any presents make sure you remember your children, who may not understand terms like economic downturn, but still deserve something to celebrate. Scrape together whatever money you have to get them something special. All the kids grown up? Well, maybe a relative, co-worker, friend or neighbor is struggling and could find good use for that anonymous gift of money in buying a few presents for their children.

2. Not sure where I came across this quote – maybe a book or movie – “Let us never underestimate the power of a well-written letter.” As you write out your Christmas cards, take the time to put a few well-placed feelings in the card along with your usual “Holiday Greetings” salutation. Put down on paper what’s truly in your heart. Remember, you’ll have time to devote to this activity, given that you’ll gain back the hours usually devoted to shopping in the mall. Trust, me, your card will be long-remembered, unlike that tie stuffed ignominiously in the back of someone’s sock drawer.

3. This year, my Christmas gifts are going to be the edible kind. For the past five seasons I have augmented my usual shopping with a handful of Christmas breads that I bake myself. Each year I have experimented with a variety of recipes and the one that seems to have made the greatest impact is my pumpkin-walnut bread. A couple of days before the holiday, I devote a morning to baking and delivering these breads, which are still somewhat warm when people receive them. To me, nothing says “Christmas” like opening up a still-warm loaf of moist, rich and nutty pumpkin bread. The people who receive my gifts tell me that they love the fact that this comes not just from my oven, but mostly from my heart. I think this Christmas it’s from the heart and not the mall where we should be doing our holiday shopping.