Christmas can be a challenging time of year, as commercial pressure to purchase gifts is extremely high, yet not everyone has the financial freedom to spend a lot of money. On the other hand, many people enjoy gift-giving and want to bestow presents on their loved ones during the holidays.
When you take into consideration other factors, such as the amount of unsustainable packaging and wrapping paper that is thrown away and stressful working hours for many employees, it begs the question: Should we even buy Christmas gifts anymore? We asked some experts to weigh in with some good ideas on how to approach the challenges of buying gifts this time of year. Check out their tips below.
Don’t Go Into Debt
“Gift-giving can be quite expensive, which is one of the most reasonable arguments against continuing the practice,” said Hamza Usmani, Head of content at Believe Money. For those who can afford it, keeping up the practice may be fine, but many household budgets these days are really tight.
The worst thing to do, Usmani said, is to stretch beyond your means to pay for presents. “It is unquestionably a bad idea to purchase gifts if doing so would result in debt or make it difficult for you to pay your debts.”
Don’t Give In to Consumerism
Gift-giving should be thoughtful. Buying gifts just to buy them doesn’t do anyone any favors. Rebecca Brooks, a personal finance expert and coach with R&D Financial Coaching, reminds us that consumerism at the holidays can fan the flames of inflation and “continue the upward trend of interest rates.” She said, “So it appears that on a grand scale it could be beneficial to stop buying Christmas presents.”
That doesn’t mean you have to give up celebrating your friends and family, however.
Brooks said, “None of our friends or family members want us to go into debt just to buy them a gift. The key is to still be thoughtful and communicate. Make a plan to create memories with friends and family. Have a holiday themed movie night, bake cookies and enjoy each other’s company. Attend a local holiday event, go ice skating or take a drive to see Christmas lights. You get the idea! The emphasis is on time spent together, not money spent on each other.”
Secret Santa and white elephant gift exchanges can also reduce the number of gifts you buy.
A happy medium between buying expensive gifts and not buying any at all is to consider shopping secondhand, according to Sarah Pinner, CEO of Beni, the free browser extension for secondhand shopping.
“With inflation at an all time high, the status quo Christmas shopping may not make the most sense financially for many families,” Pinner said. Especially for those already struggling, it won’t be worth the financial strain. “This said, there are many ways to use this time of the year to show appreciation for the people in your life without purchasing a physical gift. For example, you can cook a special meal or gift services instead. In addition, there are opportunities to get creative and smart about how to purchase something while still saving money.”
Shop Intentionally and Save for Christmas
Andy Kalmon, CEO of Benny, said he never tells his clients to stop Christmas shopping altogether. “It’s my job to help them develop a responsible and intentional plan for their money where they decide what to prioritize and what to cut based on what they value and what they can afford.”
To him, this means having a plan to afford it, without going into debt or using Buy Now, Pay Later. “You can buy whatever makes your heart happy, as long as you realize that you can’t buy everything and must occasionally make choices about where your money goes.”
His recommendation is to set money aside for Christmas gifts all year long so that you have enough to spend on them when the time comes.
Carl Jensen, personal finance expert and the founder of Compare Banks, said consider aiming for a zero-waste Christmas, gifting long-lasting presents that limit how much you throw away.
“A waste-free Christmas would be much better for everyone around us as well as for the world, both of which are harmed as a result of our irresponsible behaviors. Take a look at some charitable initiatives that can inspire us to contribute to a good cause rather than simply adding to the problem There are a lot of considerate gifts that have tremendous value and will be utilized and cherished.”
Pool Your Funds
If you’re hoping to meet someone’s high-priced wish list, don’t go at it alone, said Mary Hines Droesch, head of Consumer and Small Business Products at Bank of America. “Come together with friends or family and go in on a gift together to ensure you’re not breaking your budget, while still giving a gift they’ll love. When it comes to splitting the bill, a peer-to-peer payment service like Zelle is a convenient way to pay your gifting partner or get paid back for fronting the bill.”
Another great strategy to manage financial stress is to get creative with your gifting plans, Droesch said. “Do-it-yourself (DIY) gifts, such as hand-painted mugs, are a great way to pull on the heart strings, if done correctly, and save money. Another creative present this season is to give a ‘shared experience’ — such as a concert ticket or a road trip.”
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