By the time you read this, most likely all that's left of your neatly wrapped presents are scraps of wrapping paper, crumpled bows, and empty boxes. Hopefully, the kids are playing with their new toys and you've been reading an ebook on your new Kindle Paperwhite.
I've described a warm and cheery scene, and I hope it feels that way to you — but what if it doesn't?
Did your gift-giving let you down?
Perhaps this holiday season left you feeling dissatisfied. Nothing you can put your finger on, of course, but something doesn't feel right. It was nice, but maybe not as nice as you were expecting.
Did you give gifts to people who didn't need them? Maybe you even feel guilty that you can afford to give your children huge presents. Or maybe you're feeling guilty because you can't afford to buy your children anything at all. You may be overwhelmed with clutter and wonder where exactly you're going to store all the new things you've received — not to mention, nervously anticipating the next credit card statement and hoping you won't have to tap your savings account to pay off the bills. And exchanging gift cards of equal amounts just feels … stupid.
I've had some of the same thoughts, but these thoughts frustrate me because it's not necessary to feel this way.
Giving shouldn't make you feel guilty
First, if you have any guilt associated with what you did (or didn't) give, do your best to let that go. Guilt is a string that attaches itself to your gifts. And you want to give with no strings attached, right?
If you're feeling overwhelmed with the clutter, then declutter soon or give less next year. And don't feel bad about it.
And if you blew your budget this year, get back on track and resolve to make next year easier on your wallet.
But if you're just feeling a little Scrooge-like (hand raised), maybe you can join me in my new mindset.
I'm approaching 2016 with a different mindset: giving because I want to, not because I feel obligated. And giving what I can over the entire year, instead of just at the end.
How? By holding my stuff (and my time) somewhat loosely and trying to cultivate a spirit of generosity.
What can you give that's more precious than money?
About five years ago, I was at an orphanage in Haiti. The orphanage was bursting at the seams and could only afford to feed the children two meals a day: beans and rice and beans and rice. While a few vegetables found their way on the menu every now and then, meat was extremely rare.
But one day, we were served goat stew. To be honest, I wasn't excited about this gift. I had never eaten goat meat before, and it looked suspiciously disgusting, hairy lumps floating in broth. But the gift brought a lump to my throat. Even though I suspect our own donations bought the goat, they still served us first. The children were thrilled to eat the meat later, but only after we'd eaten as much as we wanted.
When someone gives sacrificially, the gift doesn't matter. And it should inspire the rest of us too.
I know this is Christmas Day, but … a couple of weeks before Christmas, a young woman without much of a support system, texted me.
“How was your Thanksgiving?”
“It was good,” I texted back. “How about yours?”
“I didn't have one. I just stayed at home.”
Want to know what my Thanksgiving was like? Which one? Because we had four. We had more than enough food to share and plenty of family members around. Why can't I invite her next year? Maybe she'll come; maybe she won't. But I have abundance to share.
What can you give that costs little?
Cultivating a spirit of generosity doesn't even mean giving a lot — and the best thing is, it's something you can give any day of the year.
You can give your leftovers. True story. I was in my early 20s, working at a hospital. One of my co-workers, a great cook, often brought me her leftovers for lunch. Much better than the frozen processed meals I usually had. Over 15 years later, I still appreciate her thoughtfulness.
Open your eyes to the needs around you. Open the door for someone. Give kind words. Acknowledge the exhausted mother herding three children through the grocery store 10 minutes before closing — or the mother of the toddler throwing a temper tantrum in the middle of the store aisle. Give a smile, without any criticism.
Smile freely. Add to tip jars. Give the benefit of the doubt.
Enjoy your Christmas Day
Even if I am a little cynical about my gift-giving this year, I refuse to allow these feelings to dampen the beauty of the day (and I hope this post didn't rob you of this season's joy, either). I'm off to enjoy the warmth of spending time with the people I love most in the world — whether or not they liked their gifts!
So a very Merry Christmas to you and a Happy New Year from all of us at Get Rich Slowly.
If you've ever been blah about giving, what did you do to change your attitude?
Lisa Aberle is a college professor by day and a freelance writer by night. Always an aspiring writer with an interest in money, she once ironically misspelled “mortgage” during a spelling bee. Most of her current adventures take place on the four-acre mini-farm she shares with her husband in the rural Midwest (where she writes with gel pens whenever possible).