The festive season can be a financially stressful time for many people, gift wrapped with culturally ingrained social pressure to spend.
We want to express our appreciation for those we care about, but fear being perceived or openly accused of being stingy, and even ostracised.
Then there are those we don’t care that much for but feel obliged to spend money on, for similar reasons. (Office Kris Kringle?)
My ‘money for life’ approach to this is to find ways to boost the ‘warm fuzzies’ whilst also reducing the cost. If you can make them say “Nawwww” then hopefully the cost will be irrelevant.
Give a gift of their love languages
One of my favourite ways to create Christmas magic on a budget is to give a gift of each person’s love language.
In his book The 5 Love Languages, Dr Gary Chapman explains that everyone gives and receives love and appreciation differently. And each of us will have a hierarchy of the five languages such that one or two methods really mean a lot to us, while another method may barely register for us.
Giving and receiving gifts is only one of the five love languages, and for some (like me) it barely registers. Instead what lights me up is for my children to make a card with a personal note about what they appreciate about me, and for it to be delivered with a big cuddle. The total cost is less than a dollar!
The 5 Love Languages are:
- Words of Affirmation
- Quality Time
- Acts of Service
- Physical Touch
Can you guess which are my top two love languages?
Take the free quiz on the 5 Love Languages website to discover your love languages. Who doesn’t love a personality quiz at this time of year?
Here are 10+ ideas to give a priceless gift that costs you much less.
Words of Affirmation
- Give them a heartfelt message detailing the many things you appreciate about them and memories of moments you’ve shared.
- This could be a card or even a video or audio message, which smartphones make easy.
- Take them out 1-on-1 to share an activity they really enjoy.
For her 70th birthday, all my Mum wanted was to hang with her grandchildren (and me?). So we saved on the party and instead did an activity we all enjoy.
- Or do the activity at home such as playing board games.
My son wrote on my Father’s Day card that he appreciated me trying to play video games with him (emphasis on the trying). For Christmas instead of buying a new video game, I could give him vouchers for five hours of slaying me in games he already owns.
- Many retirees do volunteer work and don’t need more stuff, so a precious gift for your parents could be to volunteer with them for a few hours at their favourite charity.
Acts of Service
- Think of their least favourite errand or household chore and do it for them, especially if it’s one they never quite get around to.
- For example, clean their windows, gutters, pool, car or kitchen exhaust fan.
- Or you could help in their garden by spreading mulch, weeding, mowing or pruning.
- Give them a massage rather than buying a voucher for a massage.
- Got teenagers who are too cool to hug you anymore? Drop the hint that you want a ‘gift card’ of 10 hugs, which you may redeem individually.
Combine the love languages
Once the creative juices flow you discover how easy it is to combine multiple love languages:
- Cook them a meal, eat together and really talk. Sprinkle in some words of affirmation.
- Volunteer together at a festive season charity event that they choose.
- Sit on the couch snuggling together and watch a whole movie of your child’s choosing, even if you don’t like it or have already seen it a million times.
- Give the experience before Christmas, take a photo and stick it to the front of a home-made card, including a heartfelt message. For example, a photo of you cleaning their car or mulching their garden at the start of Summer.
Part of the magic of a gift is in the effort of thinking about the recipient. So, if you’re new to the love languages resist filtering out ideas that aren’t your love language or aren’t experiences you enjoy. Remember, it’s about the way they feel loved.
If you’re worried about having something to ‘give’ them on Christmas day, then make a voucher detailing the experience you are offering them and slip it into a card.
Apply this idea to all celebrations
In our consumption-oriented culture all celebrations and calendar milestones can become expensive. To make your money stretch further apply the idea of giving a gift of their love language to all celebrations.
Also, most celebrations are foreseeable because they’re tied to the calendar or other life events. Ease your financial stress by planning for the predictable with a regular saving plan.