If holiday gift-giving has gotten away from you in the past, or if you can’t even imagine how you are going to budget for it this year, or make room for all the new toys, or add to the laundry pile of clothes, or manage your family’s screen-time with the next electronic breakthrough–there is great news: Less is more when it comes to the holidays!

Unhurried, intentional time and gift-giving have an increased memory-making impact on the receiver.  Science has proven that giving MORE gifts actually diminishes the impact of the gifts you give!

Whew! Can you feel your stress level going down? Or are you questioning: How do I get my extended family members on board with this idea?

I am beginning a series of blog posts on holiday gift-giving, scheduling, presence, and peace leading up to the holidays. You’ll be invited to consider intentional gift-giving traditions, a less stressed holiday calendar, ways to celebrate the moment and how to not lose your peace this season.

                                     Part 1: The Joy of Intentional Gift-Giving

Because the big-box stores already have their Christmas items prominently displayed, you could feel you’re being rushed into the holiday season and pressured to begin to spend, spend, spend! If your holiday gift-giving has been more reactive than proactive in the past, consider this: You can choose what you want your holiday season to be like; it just takes a little intentionality.

Intentional gift-giving allows the giver and the receiver to experience the joy of giving! Across studies, both givers and receivers of all ages report greater feelings of closeness to their gift partner when the gift reflects the giver.

According to the American Research Group, the average American will plan on spending more than $925 this Christmas. Over half of Americans go into debt during the holidays, with some not paying off their credit cards until several months into the following year. Most get caught up in thinking family members will feel loved (or love them more), by how many gifts they receive.  However, studies prove that it’s not the amount, but the intentionality of a gift that brings us closer to the giver. Adults, when asked about what they would most like from another adult, frequently respond that it is not even about a physical “gift” at all, but about time spent together through an experience!

Studies also show that not only adults desire less, but children actually become more resourceful and play more creatively with less!

As you ponder what intentional gift-giving might look like for your family this season, here are a few options to consider:

  1.  Pattern your gift-giving after the historical gifts which represent a faith tradition. This is connected to the biblical story of the baby Jesus receiving three gifts: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
  • Gold: representing a gift of high value. (Not necessarily spending a lot, but what your family member really values.)
  • Frankincense: The gift of worship. (This could be something that strengthens your family member’s connection to their faith.)
  • Myrrh: something for the body. (Age-dependent, this could be very creative.)
  1.  Try implementing the Four-Gift Challenge:
  • Something they want.
  • Something they need.
  • An item to wear.
  • A book to read.
  1.  Give Personal and Playful presents:
  • A personal gift from a parent or family member.
  • A playful gift from Santa.
  1.  Give the gift of T.I.M.E.
  • Toy, Tool, or Treat (appropriate for recipient).
  • Inspiration: A book, class, or music to inspire the recipient.
  • Made: Something the gift-giver made or can make with the recipient.
  • Experience: The gift of an experience to share together.
  1.  Draw names for one gift and set a dollar amount. Friends or family members draw names and spend a certain dollar amount. (*It is helpful if the recipient shares gift-giving options.)
  1.  Consider a family gift.
  • Trip.
  • New family board or card game.
  • A needed larger-ticket item.

Another way to give as a family is to give back to others. Perhaps that means bringing your children toy shopping and donating to the Salvation Army, or adopting a family through your local faith organization or Angel Tree.

For those who need a little inspiration, here are a few experiential gift ideas:

  • Memberships (museum, zoo, gym, etc.)
  • Concert tickets
  • Game tickets
  • Activity
  • Registration for a class or sport
  • Restaurant gift card
  • Crafting, cooking, or day-trip together
  • Fishing/hunting/camping experience
  • Summer camp registration
  • Donating together or volunteering together

Celebrations have looked different for our family throughout the years, but some of our favorite times have been simply putting together a new family puzzle and receiving new pajamas on Christmas Eve. (There have been several years where I’ve met family members around the puzzle table at 2 or 3 a.m. as we tried to solve the mystery of missing puzzle pieces!) The key for us enjoying the holidays is to adjust to our growing family’s desires and schedules, hanging on to certain traditions but holding loosely to most.

If intentional gift-giving resonates with you, reach out to your family members. Ask them to consider giving with intention this year. Discuss the “why” behind new options and let them buy-in. Maybe this conversation will only open the dialogue, or maybe this will be the year to discover the joy of giving intentionally.

I’d love to hear your comments on your family’s gift-giving traditions or other suggestions for the season!