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Ho, ho, hold back on the number of gifts

SURPLUS SURPRISES: It's easy to lose sight of your financial plan when you're out shopping and you end up coming home with considerably more than your kids need.
SURPLUS SURPRISES: It's easy to lose sight of your financial plan when you're out shopping and you end up coming home with considerably more than your kids need. swissmediavision

WITH 13 days until the annual Christian festival of Christmas, conversations have started up about gift buying, parties and holidays.

In my mind we place unnecessary pressure and expectation on ourselves and it's no wonder many struggle with the burdens and emotions during this season.

It's meant to bring out the best in us but I'm not convinced. I think it brings out the worst aspects of our society, with the festive season morphing into the ugly season.

Personally I have never understood why for one day in the year we go to so much effort and expense.

Take the gift buying aspect for example where we feel duty bound to spend money we often don't have on things that nobody really needs.

Giving and receiving gifts, with little or no practical function, has become a more or less mandatory Christmas tradition.

I was listening to a talk back radio show recently with the host taking calls from listeners about how much they spend on their children. I was shocked at the big figures.

It seems a number of parents have a pre-prescribed sum each child's stash should amount to. A number they believe will make their offspring happy.

But shelling out $500 in gifts just for the sake of reaching the magic figure - really?

Having a budget is a very good idea, but it's easy to lose sight of your financial plan when you're out shopping and you end up coming home with considerably more than your kids need.

Sure it's only natural to want to spoil your children and it's fun watching kids rip open mountains of presents but they are usually short-lived novelties which then sit in the cupboard for most of the year untouched.

But it's difficult, especially for parents, to opt out of the custom or not fall into the trap of spending more than is necessary.

The fly in the minimal Christmas gift ointment, is that not everyone is on board with the notion of sparse offerings beneath the tree when it comes to their children, making others feel trapped into giving lots of gifts too.

I follow a three-gift rule:

Buy one item that is practical and useful long term.

Buy something that is really needed (nothing wrong with socks and jocks).

Buy something that is fun.

The conclusion I have arrived at after many years of struggling to come up with the best gifts is to give experiences instead of stuff. It is far more meaningful and creates memories.

Ultimately it's your choice on how you face up to the reality of it all. Take control.

I realise it is easy to say relax and enjoy the season but it's not that simple if you are feeling pressured.

Be thankful for the little things and celebrate like they did in the middle ages - public feasting, dancing, drunkenness and giving help to those less fortunate.

Topics:  budget christmas expense families parenting presents


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