This is part 2 of a series on holiday gift-giving. Part 1 explored our real motivations for gift-giving. This post provides some tips for making Christmas shopping less stressful and more rewarding.
The thought of shopping for holiday gifts makes many people cringe. It’s often a stressful process that can leave people emotionally and financially drained.
Social norms and expectations make it difficult to avoid the whole process of holiday gift exchange altogether. Even if we could, it might not be beneficial to us! As we saw in part 1 of this blog post series, people are hard-wired for gift-giving, and there are some major benefits to participating in gift-giving rituals.
How can people continue to exchange holiday gifts with less stress? Thankfully, it is possible. Check out our tips for making Christmas shopping enjoyable.
1. Remember the benefits
Buying holiday gifts might feel like a burden; something that you “have” to do. It can be helpful to remember the benefits of gift-giving described in part 1. As a gift-giver, you can define and strengthen your relationships with other people, develop greater empathy, feel closer your gift recipients, flex your natural generosity muscles, and get a mood boost in the process.
Keeping the positive outcomes of gift-giving in mind can make Christmas shopping feel less like a hassle you’ve been forced into, and more like a desirable activity you’re choosing to do. After all, it can be an opportunity for real benefits to yourself and to your relationships!
2. Consider the meaning of your gifts
Try to imagine the world from the perspective of your gift recipient, with all their likes and dislikes, excitements and pet peeves. What do they like? What brings them pleasure? If you have a gift in mind, what will it mean to the person receiving it?
Asking questions like these enhances your empathy for the people you’re buying gifts for. In so doing, you’re maximising some of the key benefits of gift-giving; you’re strengthening your social bonds with your gift recipients, increasing your sense of closeness to them, and lifting your mood in the process.
Focusing on the meaning of gifts for the people receiving them is the best way to get the most pleasure out of gift-giving. It also gives you the best chance of giving presents that people will love (and seeing their pleasure is likely to be a major mood enhancer for you as well!).
3. Forget about “perfect”
The consumer hype around the holiday season can lead to a lot of pressure to get the “perfect” gift, which often also means a big price tag. If you find yourself stressing about getting the one “perfect” gift, take a deep breath and review #2. Follow your instincts and your empathy. There’s no such thing as one “perfect” gift; focus on what’s meaningful to the person and you’re likely to stay on the right track.
4. Keep your finances in check
It’s easy to get caught up in the frenzy of expensive consumer goods around the holiday season and end up with huge bills to pay off. That can lead to significant ongoing stress and even resentment, especially if you’re not even sure whether your recipients will enjoy their gifts! Tips #2 and #3 can make it easier to find meaningful gifts that people will love without necessarily spending a lot of money. Some people are opting to make gifts themselves to save money, while still allowing them to engage in gift exchange and experience its benefits.
However you choose to approach gift shopping (or making), knowing your gift budget in advance and not exceeding it will help make the holidays a more joyful, less stressful time. Focusing on the meaning of gifts rather than necessarily buying expensive items can help you stay within your budget and keep the process more fun, no matter how big or small your pool of holiday funds.
5. Start early
This is a practical tip and it may seem obvious, but it can make a big difference to the stress involved in gift shopping (or making). If you start the process early, you can allow yourself enough time to consider the meaning of gifts and maximising all of the personal and relationship benefits of gift-giving. Last-minute purchases can often also be the downfall of people’s budgets; in the panic to get a gift (any gift!), people often start buying more expensive items than they would have if they had started earlier. Of course, it’s important for each person to find what works for them. Some people thrive on the excitement of last-minute shopping, or need a looming deadline in order to finish making or buying gifts. However, many people find that starting early makes the holidays feel more fun and carefree.
Holiday gift-giving can be rewarding and need not be as stressful as it often seems to be for people. It is possible to exchange gifts and have it be a meaningful, mutually beneficial experience rather than an anxiety-filled display of consumerism.
How do you handle Christmas shopping? Is it an enjoyable or a stressful experience for you? Have your say in the comments below!