Not everyone celebrates what we’ve come to call "The Holidays", and those who do celebrate them vary widely in their rituals and traditions. For millions of Americans, however, seasonal gift giving is a custom that sometimes can bring with it undue financial burdens. If your own budget is under pressure this year, perhaps because of the tough economy, here are some thoughts and suggestions that may help.
In 2003 I was a graduate student with little discretionary income. I needed every penny for tuition and books. I treasured The Holidays and loved the idea of giving presents as a part of my celebration, but I had to be realistic. I realized I’d have to scale back drastically, and come up with unconventional ways to show my family and friends how much I care about them.
First of all, as I told myself then, you should put aside any embarrassment you may feel about your difficult circumstances. Neither your own value nor the value you place on others is reflected in the presents you give. Gifts are not a substitute for feelings, and your presents don’t have to be lavish. You can let your friends know that your funds are meager. If they care about you, they’ll understand.
One of the best presents you can give is your expression of love, and you can show it in a variety of ways that aren’t expensive:
-- Give cards that you’ve made yourself. Write expressions of your love and tell people how important they are to you. Or make your cards funny, and specific to your relationship with the individual or family. Perhaps you can recount a special experience you shared with them, how much you valued their company then, and how deeply you appreciate it now. You can give cards by themselves or combine them with one of the other ideas below.
-- If you have an artistic flair, you might try making another paper or craft item—a collage or an origami, for example. You’ll probably have fun in the process.
-- Find an old photograph of the two of you together. Go to a dollar store and pick out a frame for it.