As many families look to rein in their spending during the economic
downturn, this is a good time to focus on the positives of less lavish
forms of consumption.
Instead of promoting the size of the price tag, placing greater
emphasis on some of the more meaningful benefits of giving and receiving
gifts can make the ritual feel less superficial and more emotionally
The real benefits of Christmas will last just as long as that extra
inch on your waistline or extra nought on your credit card bill, but
without the angst of either!
Looking beyond the price tag...
Thinking about the true spirit of giving helps us cut through all the
manufacturers' sales campaigns and remember that Christmas is not just
about rushing round the shops at the last minute to grab things with the
biggest price tag.
Although giving expensive presents might be superficially impressive,
it can mask less generous sentiments, such as a desire to raise the
giver's status. Giving expensive gifts can be a substitute for genuine
acts of affection or even a subliminal way of controlling recipients by
making them overly grateful.
When it's the receiver who has demanded the expensive gift, it
negates all thought on behalf of the giver and can sometimes cause
By focusing on the other facets of giving gifts, like spending time
and effort on someone else and showing thoughtfulness and an
understanding of their needs and tastes, you can create stronger bonds
that will stretch way beyond the festive season.
Psychological benefits of gift-making
An inexpensive or home-made gift that is well thought out is often
much more memorable than something flashy and expensive that has
obviously been bought with little or no consideration of the personal
interests or needs of the recipient.
Gift-making really does extend the ritual of Christmas in a good way.
It helps focus on a key aspect of the event that is often either
forgotten or underestimated in terms of the creation of genuine
happiness, namely anticipation.
Psychologists often claim that the anticipation of an event or gift
will often far outweigh the pleasure of the thing itself. By spending
time planning and making more meaningful presents - or by making
decorations or gifts together - you can greatly increase the positive
benefits and levels of happiness.
Rather than battling your way round the shops, you could be sitting
down together making gifts for the rest of the family and friends.
If that sounds a bit too idealised and 'Walton family', it doesn't
have to: Christmas is all about rituals, and although saving money on
gifts might be prompted by the recession, the act of producing and
sharing them is something you can continue long after the stock market
is looking healthier again.
Practical gift-making tips
- Think creatively. Making gifts involves creative
thinking, which can in itself have long-term benefits. Instead of going
down the knitted hat route, encourage kids to create storybooks, writing
their own short stories in hand-illustrated notebooks. (It didn't do
the Bronte sisters any harm and you could be creating the next
generation of J K Rowlings!)
You could also encourage children
to make real-life scrapbooks for older relatives, hunting down photos
and mementoes that can also spark an interest in family history.
tasks such as making a frame for a photo they've taken of a friend's
favourite pet or making food or other treats in the shape of their
initial will help children learn new skills.
Making their own
gifts can also help children appreciate some of the non-commercial
benefits of Christmas, such as showing thought and affection for others.
- Give home-made gifts a designer twist. If you're
already into sewing or knitting patterns, but are worried your efforts
aren't always appreciated, take some time to go window-shopping in some
of the trendier designer, toy and interiors shops.
At this time
of year, these shops are full of hand-knit throws, cushions and soft
toys, and you can copy some of the latest designs, rather than knocking
out another range of woolly socks or vests!
The only thing
missing from your hand-made gift will be the designer label. One simple
idea you can copy from the trendy stores is attaching large, brown paper
luggage labels tied with string to your presents.
recipient's name on one of these should ensure even the most
hard-to-please kids think they've got a cutting-edge
- Create healthy festive foods and hampers. Giving
home-made food gifts is another lovely idea that shows you have really
thought about the recipient and taken the time to create something
especially for them.
back to top