Sense & Centsibility Blog
Family making cookies for holidays

Create More Connections, Give Fewer Gifts

No matter what holiday or holidays you celebrate this time of year, there is pressure to buy, buy, buy. As a mom, I’m always looking for ways to remove over-marketed materialism from my celebrations and bring in more joy.

One way is using author Gary Chapman’s five love languages. Gift giving, he says, is one language. The other four are:

  1. Words of Affirmation
  2. Acts of Service
  3. Quality Time
  4. Physical Touch

Holidays are about being in relationship with others. The last four languages above can apply to any relationship – marriage, a family unit, friendships, extended family or neighbors – and to whatever holiday you celebrate.

Focus on Traditions, Not Expensive Purchases

In our house, we celebrate Christmas. Each season, we focus much of our energy on traditions that don’t involve expensive gifts.

Before my husband and I had kids, we bought a small artificial tree. Today I probably would go with something more practical and reusable, but I don’t want to get rid of a perfectly good tree. One of our traditions is taking that beast out of storage and putting it together. Then my kids, with jubilant enthusiasm, decorate the entire tree and living room (Act of Service) with the lights, ornaments and decorations we already have. Hubby and I kick back on the sofa, and with Christmas carols playing in the background, we watch the mayhem (Quality Time).

Box of holiday cookiesAt least once during December, we’ll bake cookies, put them into old, decorated, oatmeal containers, and take them to a few neighbors, leaving some for ourselves (Act of Service, Quality Time). Our kids love to deliver these treats, without a parent when they’re old enough; it gives them great pride.

After we hang our stockings, we secretly tuck written messages of love, jokes or drawings in them throughout the month (Words of Affirmation). Some are practical, like a tube of toothpaste with a message, “I love your smile.” On Christmas morning, we all sit together on the sofa (Physical Touch) and read each message aloud (Quality time).

After the holiday, we observe what went well and what didn’t. We tweak things year by year as the kids get older or as we change, and we look at our financial picture and make choices within our budget. For example, we like to cook, but because the kids are picky and we have to watch our spending, we keep it simple yet festive. Something we save just for Christmas Eve is the pull-apart cheese tree. Delightfully simple and kid-friendly.

Find What Works for You and Your Family

What is your passion? What non-material gift can you share? I’m sure you have many. Here are a few simple ideas: babysitting, pet sitting, home repairs, housecleaning, snow shoveling, engaging conversation, attentive listening, a welcoming smile, a warm hug, a simple “thank you” or a compliment. People receiving any of these gifts often appreciate it more than the plastic do-hickey that needs batteries, breaks easily and adds clutter.

Imagining new holiday traditions using the languages of love can give you innovative ideas for creating a totally different holiday experience. Wrapping a gift in pretty paper and a bow doesn’t have to be the only way to celebrate.

Author Sarah Jannusch worked as a Certified Financial Counselor with LSS Financial Counseling.