I'm always a little nervous about sharing this particular opinion, especially during this time of year; because of the passion people seem to have about gift giving. I find myself wondering if they're truly caught up in the spirit and overwhelmed with generosity, or do they feel an overpowering sense of duty to give because they "know" they'll be getting something and/or it's expected. Maybe there is a little bit of both going on.
Financial professionals don't make it much better, do we - with our thoughtful and creative ways to save on gifts or options to earn some extra income during the holidays to afford our generosity. I'd like to offer a different take, and I will be the first to admit it may not be very popular. Instead of worrying about what to buy or how much you should spend, instead agree not to give gifts. Has anybody else ever wondered how many more toy cars their kid really needs, or when you would find an occasion to wear the outfit you were given? Right about here is when I'm usually being called a Scrooge or told that I don't understand the meaning of the season.
I'm not religious, and I'm not taking this down that rabbit hole - that's a whole other topic better left alone. And don't misunderstand my intention; I'm certainly not saying you shouldn't be generous or thoughtful - but I challenge you to do so in a way that doesn't affect your wallet. Below are some options I'd like people to consider, because I think they meet the underlying intent of the season - to let those you care about know how you feel.
Provide an experience. Does your loved one reminisce of days gone by, or talk about how much they enjoy the fall foliage or snow? Recreate some of those memories - carve some time out of that busy schedule to just "be" with the person. Perhaps you go out for a hot chocolate and stop at a local pond to watch the ice skaters; or you just drive the back roads with no particular destination in mind - just looking at the changing leaves (I'm from New England - it's amazing if you've never had the opportunity). Or maybe they love animals - volunteer with them at a shelter or animal rescue.
The point is to take a step back from the material world. This is not going to be for everyone, I admit that. And it will probably feel weird and/or forced at first. But think about what you would like somebody to do with you, or in your name; then turn it around and imagine the same thing for those you care about. This time of year doesn't have to be stressful and expensive. You don't have to dread January, already thinking to yourself what you're going to resolve so this doesn't happen again. Sometimes all it really takes is a K.I.S.S. (keep it simple, silly.). : )