Give something more meaningful this Christmas

Published December 11, 2014   Posted in How to Think

It’s the holiday season, and you are probably bombarded with two types of stimuli: the sweet, so-called kick-ass deals on stuff like big screen TVs, BluRay players, cell phones, clothes and even cars…or blogs (like this one) that caution against overspending and blowing your hard earned money on stupid gifts and useless luxury items that drain your pocketbook. 

Gift givingThis article is different.  Yes, I’m advising against blowing a hole in your bank account on useless bullshit clutter items.  But, I am also prepared to give you three specific and achievable alternatives to giving “stuff” this holiday season.

Looking around my house, I can count on one hand the number of items that were given to me as gifts for Christmas that I still have, use or even remember getting.  There might be a shirt or two hanging in my closet, but shit, who knows.

All those years of getting gifts, I honestly do not remember where the majority of that stuff even went.  It’s gone, probably used a couple times and that’s it.

Try that experiment yourself.  Look around your home and pick out all the things that were given to you as gifts over the years that you still use.  If those gifts outnumber your fingers, I would be surprised.

You and I are no different than anyone else and their use of yesteryear’s gifts.

Let’s get away from this nonsensically expensive consumerism in this country by looking at other gift options that the lucky recipient might actually like better.  Think of these as the gifts that keep on giving.  A $150 tie doesn’t give much throughout the year.

Instead of giving “stuff”, consider these options:

1. Memberships or subscriptions to places or services that would actually benefit them.  This might be a Netflix subscription, a membership to Costco, a gym or even a state parks pass.  Hell, buy your single friend a 3-month subscription to a dating site like Match.com or eHarmony.com.  Imagine if you were the cause of your friend finding the love of their life.  They would owe you big time.

2. Experiences, preferably with the giver.  Consider giving them a trip to a place that the both of you have always wanted to go (and try to travel hack your way there).  Or, maybe he or she wants to volunteer with you at the local Salvation Army, or hike the most strenuous trail around, or go wine tasting or, hell, cow tipping.  You get the drill.  Spend time with the person – the companionship is absolutely free and the memories can last forever.

If you’re a fitness addict and know what the hell you’re doing (be honest, now), give them several personal training lessons.  Bake them a cake if you’re a master at pastries.  Clean their house or help them organize that completely f-ed up closet.  Do yard work, like mowing their lawn, planting bushes or cutting back unwieldy trees.

Or, if the receiver of the gift is too far away, consider an experience they can enjoy on their own like a restaurant gift card, movie tickets, tickets to an event or anything else that they can choose to enjoy on their own time.

3. Education can be an incredibly rewarding gift, and definitely something that they will remember.  If a friend or family member has always wanted to learn Spanish, sign them up for a class or get them access to reputable online language learning resources (try Rosetta Stone).  Or if you know Spanish, teach them yourself.

Many people express interest in taking a course at a local community college (I have always wanted to take a meteorology class).  Consider finding a class that he or she has expressed interest in taking and sign them up.  If you know a lot about the subject, design your own class and teach them.  For example, do you know web development?  Show them how to create their own web site.  Know how to fix a carburetor?  Show them how it’s done.

Not only do these gift ideas help to curb the wicked spiral of giving “stuff” this holiday season, they also represent a much more thoughtful gift than junk that will probably be forgotten in a matter of weeks.  For example, sign me up for a meteorology course and I’ll love you forever.  Give me a new pair of pants or wallet and I’ll give you the obligatory “thanks”.

If you’re looking to retire early, as I am, the last thing that you probably want – or want to give – is more stuff.  Personally, I want to limit the amount of stuff I have, and I definitely want to encourage others to try and get more mileage out of their gifts than giving junk that will eventually get relegated to the give-away pile in the back of the closet later in the year.

Be clear with your intentions for others, too, this holiday season by encouraging everyone to give to YOU in the same vein that you are giving to them.  If you would get more out of a subscription to Amazon Prime than a new pen, then don’t hold back.  Make your intentions known.

After all, you are a reader of ThinkSaveRetire.com, and your true desire in life is to swim in a nice, warm bath of retirement and everlasting happiness.  Happiness doesn’t come from stuff, and be honest – isn’t an online class that teaches you how to take better photographs far more satisfying than a new DVD set?

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