The holidays tend to be an expensive time of year. Special occasions can add up, too. Mother’s Day was last week and Father’s Day is just around the corner. It means good times, but it can also mean spending a lot of money.
A couple years ago, my family and I decided to forgo gift-giving altogether. Prior to that, we were spending about $100 on birthday presents and holidays gifts and about $50 on gifts for special occasions, such as Mother’s Day. The high price tag was causing anxiety for some of us, so we decided that something had to change.
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On Mother’s Day a couple years ago, we sat together and had a family discussion. Gift-giving was costing our family a small fortune — over $500 per year per family member. But for the most part, the gifts were going unused. My father has a dresser drawer full of gift cards as proof. As a family, we decided enough was enough. The holidays were becoming too commercial. So, we decided to give up gift-giving entirely. That doesn’t mean we no longer celebrate special occasions. This just means we celebrate them in a different way.
Here are three things we do instead of giving gifts on special occasions.
Instead of gifts, the big thing that we do together as a family is volunteering. We realize that we’re very fortunate to live in a great, first-world country like Canada. But others aren’t so fortunate. Even those inside our country struggle to earn a living wage.
For that reason, we try to volunteer together as a family at least once every three months. We help out at homeless shelters, helped organize a clothing drive for Syrian refugees, and organized a garage sale for battered and abused women (we raised $1,000 last year). As a family, we’d like to think that we can make a small difference in the lives of those not as fortunate and lucky as us.
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Spending Time Together as a Family
We realized that the holidays are about spending quality time together as a family, not a competition between family members on who can spend the most on gifts. Everyone in my family lives busy lives. I’m a personal finance journalist with tight deadlines, my older sister is a real estate agent and my youngest sister works irregular hours in retail. Despite all this, we still find time to spend together as a family. Even if it’s just a family dinner on a Sunday night, at least we make the effort to sit together and enjoy each other’s company for the evening. We realize how precious time is and how we shouldn’t take our time together as a family for granted.
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Helping Each Other Out
We’re also there for each other year-round. For example, my father is a handyman, so he helps me with renovations around the house, while my mother is a master seamstress and helps me with sewing. I’m the financial whiz of the family, so when tax time rolls around, I do my family’s income tax returns free of charge. I estimate I help save my family at least $300 altogether, compared to paying for a professional to do our tax returns. Everyone saves money and benefits in the end.
As you can see, holidays and special occasions like Mother’s Day don’t have to be about gift-giving. By realizing what matters most — your family — you can make spending time with them (instead of money on them) a priority.
If the gift-giving in your family is getting out of control, perhaps you might want to scale it back — or do away with it, as my family has — and hopefully live a happier life, especially around the holidays.
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