The problem of christmas gift giving

Many people are swept along by the flood of frenzied gift-buying at this time of year.  They are more than willing to go into debt to buy all the presents they think they need to buy for everyone.

Once-upon-a-time people either made their own gifts or bought something simple (and often very practical) and children only received one or two gifts from their parents. These days we are spending much more at Christmas, buying the latest technology and toys and we buy lots and lots.

Our children have never been so spoilt and by the time they reach their teens, they have everything they want. In fact our children have a ever growing expectation of receiving gifts but are not being taught the importances of giving.

When the giving is over, we find that the gifts haven't brought us any further joy or "sought-after satisfaction". Many are put away and forgotten about, others become broken, batteries run flat and for many (surprisingly) are sold on eBay and turned into cash.

According to the USA National Retail Federation, it is projected that Americans will spend more than $600 billions this Christmas. With a population of 316.1 million, that is $1,898.00 per person in the USA. However, just to put that into perspective, Americans have already spent $7.4 billion on Halloween a month before and another $50 billion at the four day long weekend sales starting at Thanksgiving. (source, source) A lot money has moved from the pockets of families, many will still be paying for all of this expenditure throughout 2015.

Whilst Australia spends much less (at around $475 per person or $7.8 billion + $3.7 billion on travel during the festive season) we are still spending far more than many can afford. (source)

And did you know that there is a new and growing trend of "self-gifting"! Buying yourself the perfect gift because no one else can!

I enjoy the tradition of gift giving at this time of the year, especially when it brings joy to others.  However, buying gifts should never place the purchaser in debt or mean that they struggle for months later.  It is about time we started a movement where we encourage others to limit spending, to go for simpler more practical gifts and only spend what one can afford. Instead of giving gifts, why not give of our time and our skills via coupons:
  • offer to mow the lawns/gardening
  • breakfast in bed
  • bake a casserole, frozen meals
  • bake a cake, muffins, biscuits (cookies)
  • make homemade jam
  • make homemade soaps
  • off to do some mending, sewing, knitting
  • ironing
  • piano lessons
  • house cleaning
  • babysitting
  • walk the dogs etc.... 
These are often gifts that children can partake in and are inexpensive and bring so much joy to the receiver.

The other option is a big basket of groceries, some meat, food for the pantry, laundry and cleaning products etc...  All would be gratefully received by many.

The birth of Christ has been hijacked by all and sundry and turned into a commerical circus. We don't know the date of Christ's birth and no where in the bible does it mention observing His birth plus many of the traditions surrounding Christmas are based on pagan events. The truth is, we should remember His birth all year round, not just on one particular date in the calendar.

However if Christians do choose to get together at this time of the year - remember to stay focused on Christ (as we should all year round), enjoy the time with family and friends (as this is always special) and make sure that gift giving is not the main event of the day. Give gift giving meaning, not by how much you spend, but by the thought and love that goes into it.

But most all we need to remember that the most perfect gift, the one that is most precious and everlasting, cannot be bought in a shop, placed under the Christmas tree and its value is beyond words. It comes from above.

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning. 

James 1:17)


Comments

  1. Very true, Jo - people are spoilt (and not just children!). People have everything they truly NEED and then some. Or -- and then a LOT. It is sobering to read books about people in times past and how little they had. The children and I have been reading up on part of their world heritage by learning about American history (their Papa's world heritage). The people who came to Jamestown way back when the colony of America began were so sick and poor because of their circumstances that most of them died. Those who survived endured hardships that most people just can not imagine, let alone endure! And that is just one example of how very blessed and comfortable we are in comparison to people who have lived (and continue to live) in very difficult circumstances. This frivolous gift-giving that is seen commercially at christmas is, as you said, a "circus". It is madness!!
    There is a lot more merit amongst those who offer gifts that have true thoughtfulness and meaning - those gifts of love such as coupons, gifts for the pantry or household, and so on. What a great idea to give what someone can USE, rather than more material things to hoard (or sell!). Your list is a really good one! :)
    The statistics you spoke of are incredible. And the worst of it is that a lot of people will spend even more than those averages because there are people like myself and others I know who don't buy ANY gifts!! It's sickening to think that people go on these spending sprees of (often unnecessary) gift buying and then live in debt for months. What a shame! Sure - it probably does our economy a lot of good, a nice boost... But for the individuals and families that end up in financial strife, how horrible! :(

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    1. A friend of mine has two grandchildren - the eldest is 4 and she asked for an iPad for Christmas. I have heard this many times, young children wanting expensive technology that their parents have. Children have no qualms about asking for expensive gifts and get quite uppity when they don’t get what they want. Sadly many parents give their children whatever they want (stops the arguments) and then wonder why they have spoilt children who are never satisfied.

      Yes, I too have read books about the struggles of previous generations, we have no idea of what struggling is or doing without for years at a a time. Life was tough and just finding enough food and staying alive was hard enough. My dad and I have often discussed the amount people spend on things like alcohol, cigarettes and gambling (and at this time of the year Christmas gifts) but will be the first to complain about the cost of electricity or how much food has gone up. Whilst there are those who are really struggling, many, if they cut back on alcohol, cigarettes and gambling they would in fact have far less struggles.

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  2. Wow, Jo! You said everything I've been thinking, but didn't know how to put into words. I don't feel that we ever bought excessively for our children, but I do wish I could go back and do it all over!

    My daughter leads a campus ministry in Germany and she and my son-in-law can't afford to fly home every year, so this is their year to stay with the team there. But when they were home last Christmas, they gave me a beautiful little coffee mug that was handmade by a craftsman in the Old Town section of Tubingen. Using it makes me think of them, and there's nothing of more expense that could ever mean as much. Thanks for sharing, Jo.

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    1. Thankyou Carole - whilst you and I know and understand all this (!), sadly it would appear most people are being taken for a ride and blinded by all the ads on TV and the big shopping malls that tell us to BUY - BUY and BUY some more!!

      O' wouldn't we all wish to go back and do things differently!! I have thought of that often :))

      Sometimes its the smallest and cheapest gifts that are the most priceless. My son once sent me a card that said "I love you mum", that will always be treasured more than anything of great value.

      Have a wonderful week.

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  3. Bravo! I live in the U.S. on a low income. I squirreled away about $125 for Christmas this year... for my whole family... husband and four children! Right now I have $20 left that I'll spend today or tomorrow I expect.
    My husband decided to spend a little, too from money he's got.

    All in all, it will all be a very low expenditure. My kids are still excited. I shopped the thrift stores and yard sales. It will all be fine. I won't charge another gift ever on a credit card.

    Happy Christmas Jo!

    Laura of Harvest Lane Cottage

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    Replies
    1. Dear Laura, you are the perfect example of what we all should all be doing - spending less and teaching our children that they don’t need the latest and greatest to still have an exciting and joyful Christmas. If you take your time and put in an a little more effort, the rewards pay off as you are finding. I love thrift stores and second-hand stores can also be a great resource too!!

      Happy Christmas to you and I look forward to our continuing friendship in the New year.

      xx

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  4. This is so true, for our extended families that came this year, I bought flower pots (plastic) and filled them with baking, home made cheese, home made soap and hand cream, hot choc mix etc. I had a great time making everything and it was such a cost saving thing and they really seemed thrilled to receive them. Our children get things they can do, our No 2 daughter got a new uke and started playing it straight away. It was such a joy to see her face light up, No 2 son got lego that I layby for 6 months, even though this is more expensive, he learns so much from it and it is used and used and used. Our older children get things they need and are very appreciative of it. Nothing is bought that isn't used. We aren't really into "toys". We do Christmas with no debt and it is always such a great feeling. I really love giving gifts, but I don't want our family to want gifts more than they remember Jesus as the real reason we celebrate Christmas. Thanks for sharing at Good Morning Mondays, Blessings to you and your family this Christmas.

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    1. I love your flower pot idea, this is excellent and something you can start early with the planning. I agree with buying useful gifts, I just can't see the point of gifts that even up in the cupboard and never used or re-gifted!

      Have a wonderful and blessed new year.

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