Giving Gifts with Meaning

By Camille Wilder

How to avoid the holiday blues when you don’t know what to give

As soon as I opened our mailbox the other day, I realized we were entering the start of the holiday season. There it was; the Amazon Christmas catalog.

Every year, my son, Harrison, would get comfortable on the couch with his pen and methodically circle what seemed like every single toy in the catalog. Then he’d proudly hand it over and let us know he was finished making his Christmas list.

I will say, as he’s gotten older, he doesn’t circle the ENTIRE catalog anymore, but while his gift list items have seemingly gotten smaller, they are somehow much more expensive.

When Harrison was younger, Christmas Day felt like overstimulation central: he’d literally tear through every gift as fast as he could, barely stopping to see what the gift was before moving onto the next. All the time, thoughtfulness and money we’d spent carefully choosing gifts wasn’t really acknowledged or appreciated.

Then we heard about a gift giving strategy that focused more on meaningful and purposeful gifts and gift giving. It was this — 4 gifts: something they want, something they need, something to wear and something to read.

For us, this method took the pressure off buying lots of gifts and simplified gift giving to make it more significant and creative. And maybe even sparked some gratitude. Because the last thing Harrison needed was more stuff. 

Many of you may be ready to implement this strategy but fear your extended family won’t be as on board. So, what do you do with well-meaning relatives that love to overindulge?

Ask if they’d consider purchasing a membership to a family-friendly place such as a museum, zoo, waterpark, etc. Or contribute towards a family trip they could help plan. We did this with our family members one year and let them know instead of toys we wanted to engage in activities that allowed us to make memories as a family. Then asked if they’d be willing to contribute toward or purchase a museum or zoo membership. Our suggestion was received much better than we anticipated, and we were thrilled with the presents under the tree that year!

We know, however, that as kids get older, they may not want to hang out with mom and dad as often or go somewhere for “little kids.” And often, we all desire to give them something more than cold, hard cash or gift cards, even though that’s exactly what they want. But a friend recently shared this brilliant option with me — a gift card book! 

The idea is geared towards college students, but you could easily customize it for tweens and teenagers. Find a scrapbook album, then give each page a theme. For example, “When your feet have grown” and include a gift card for Waco Running Company for a new pair of sneakers. Or “When you’re feeling sick” and there’s a gift card for some yummy pho from Clay Pot. “When you need help with the late nights and early mornings” and a gift card to Common Grounds. You could really get creative when customizing the gift cards. The possibilities are endless!

The holidays don’t have to be hectic, consumer-driven and filled with overstimulation. Less can certainly be more. With these tips, we’re wishing you a happy, healthy and an especially peaceful holiday season!