What kind of gift giver are you?

Have you ever given someone a gift that you can’t afford simply because you just want to feel the glow of giving, or because maybe you want to impress them, or want something in return? Christmas can be a really difficult time for us and our money and emotions. I believe we often feel a contract for connection between giving and receiving gifts. This desire for this connection can lead to overspending. Are we getting ourselves into traps or routines, setting up expectations?

So why do we give gifts in the first place and particularly at Christmas time? I believe it is a societal tradition and we do get pleasure from giving to others. At Christmas, we are in the tradition of gift giving and receiving. There comes pressure for it to be big and spectacular, and even better than the previous year. Some put effort into making it meaningful and thoughtful. Being aware of how gift giving makes you feel is very important (especially time of year) to ease the pressure and expectations that naturally arise. Thank you – Gratitude – I appreciate you – Special moments, are part of the rush of dopamine from this generosity. It’s a joy to treat our loved ones with something meaningful. And as I move forward and maybe it’s just that I’m getting older, the things that are important to me are having family and having friends all sharing joy. So when I give a gift, I want it to be a well thought out gift, but it doesn’t need to be an expensive gift.

One idea, work out your Christmas budget and know exactly where you want your money to go. Start with how much would you like to spend on Christmas this year. Work out your budget and your priorities of gifts to give. Write your list and check it twice! If you have children, you’re going to want to spend the majority on your children. So let’s say you’ve got $1000 budget for Christmas, you’ve got two children. So for example, we’re going to spend $250 on each child. So then we’ve got $500.00 left to spend on the remaining gifts, with 10 people to buy for. As we head to the shops or browse online, keep a tally of what you spend to stay within your budget. Think about repurposing, making, creating, or even bulk buying to get the best value for your loved ones and keep in your budget.

What kind of gift giver are you? There are learnings everywhere and it’s important to reflect on how we are feeling throughout the process. Often it depends on who we are giving to, what our finances look like, and our emotional well-being at the time and time and energy to devote.

The Sentimental Gift Giver
We were chatting in the office about this topic just yesterday. One of the team was talking about how when they sold the family home she created a photo book to really savour all the stories and fond memories. It wasn’t expensive, it took effort and time. It was greatly appreciated by her parents, even to this day. I feel the contract of connection was balanced here. Knowing the recipient is important to find a sentimental gift and acknowledging that it may or may not cost you.

The Over-the-top Gift Giver
I was reading about a woman who had stayed up all night creating hand painting on wine glasses for everyone in her workplace. Unfortunately, they didn’t appreciate the effort and the attention to detail. I sadly see this as she misdirected all her efforts to the wrong people. That there was an imbalance of values. Or maybe her efforts were in an attempt to receive something greater and that’s where our contract for connection comes in. So when you’re looking at how you’re giving gifts and who you’re giving gifts to, consider that you’re giving gifts to create a connection with someone and whether they’re worthy of your connection. I totally acknowledge that sometimes it’s truly cup-filling to spoil a loved one every now and then. Knowing it would be appreciated and that there isn’t an expectation to receive such an extravagant gift next time is key to having a strong connection.

The Competitor
I know some families that have an almost gift giving competition where every year is better than the last, getting bigger and bigger. The other families have habits of getting the same gift year on year. A few things on this…boring, seems thoughtless, and does not factor in shifts in financial situations. One of my team always gets her parents an expensive weekend away every year but is recently reconsidering this habit. Thinking about whether she can afford it, is it extravagant in this climate and is appreciated and needed? All in all, gift giving is not a competitive sport and be careful to live within your means and make sure your gift giving isn’t to your own detriment.

The Wasteful Giver
Need I say more? We live in a wasteful society and I get the ick hearing of all the rubbish and poor quality purchased or the lack of thought where gifts aren’t even used. You might be a little eager to tick off the shopping list with little thought of the recipient or the environment.

The Obligated or Resentful Giver
Do you give because you have to? Or if you feel resentment in your heart for giving a gift, is the gift going to be well received? Probably not. Make the purchase and tick it off your Christmas shopping list because you have to may not give you the full joyous effects of gift giving. Check in on your own well-being and make sure you’re feeling all the feels from gift giving.

The Guilty Giver
There’s also the guilty gift giver. They are the gifts that you haven’t spent enough time on or haven’t seen someone enough, so you really try and give them something that’s a little bit over the top. Is it a bit of a ‘please like me gift’? Or maybe you’ve used all of your ‘I Owe You’ cards and need to go big or go home.

The Must Be Equal At All Costs
There’s the gift that is given because you want something of equal value back. There’s an expectation that if I’ve spent $100 on you, then you need to spend $100 on me. This tactic might lead you to disappointment as everyone’s perception of value is different. It’s worth considering where each other might be at financially to find a considerate gift.

The Creative Giver
Make it yourself and give it from the heart. It doesn’t need to be expensive, it needs to be meaningful. Think jars of cranberry paste, Christmas shortbread, or even pickles. Knitting a scarf in the right colour for the recipient, or upcycling an op shop treasure. I love these kinds of gifts, they’re often thoughtful and require a fair amount of effort and time, which I truly appreciate.

To Kringle or Not To Kringle
My family doesn’t give gifts to adults at Christmas anymore. We went through a stage of doing Kris Kringle, but now don’t even do that. With a limit in place does it really suit everyone’s financial situation, do you end up getting a thoughtful gift, most likely not as a generic gift has been purchased most of the time. I don’t mind Kris Kringles where you know the recipient and can therefore buy something thoughtful.

This year I want you to think about giving to yourself. Be kind. Take care of your self esteem and the way that you’re feeling and over giving and over trying to create that connection that isn’t going to work for you. Remember, over giving doesn’t create a real connection, it creates a temporary connection, but the real connection comes from experiences and time together and acts of service to each other. And as we search for meaning, we find connection. So have a Merry Christmas and really enjoy yourself. Enjoy your journey, enjoy your family and your connection and all the things that Christmas brings.

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Phoebe is available for interviews, guest appearances, article commentary, and talks on a range of topics relating to property, mortgage broking, and personal finance (particularly for women!).