3 GIFT-GIVING TIPS
That Won’t Kill Your Savings
Ah, the holidays. It’s a time of sweet treats, family, and giving back — and sometimes giving a little too much. When it comes to the perfect holiday gift, many people spend too much money. The average American spends nearly $1,000 on gifts during the December holidays alone!
BE A BETTER LISTENER FOR SOMEONE
It’s possible to cut back and make it to January without major debt. Here’s how.
Check your list — twice!
The list is going to be your secret weapon to tackling the holidays with your savings still intact. Start by writing down the name of every person you’d like to get a gift for. Now, with the exception of your immediate family members, narrow the names down to your top five — top 10 if you’re really popular. Now, place the names of the people who didn’t make the cut into a second list. If you still feel the need to do something for them, send homemade cookies or a handwritten note instead of purchasing something. This limits how much you actually have to spend!
It’s not always easy to share feelings of frustration, anger, sadness, or other strong
emotions — but it’s healthy to share them. Sometimes, we need to vent and get it all out. Venting gives us an opportunity to release these emotions, which often leads to mental clarity.
Think beyond store-bought or expensive items.
However, when someone comes to you to vent and share their heavy emotional burden, listening can be just as challenging as sharing. You want to be supportive, but you don’t want to interfere. Strong feelings and tough situations may be involved. What can you do to be the listener they really need? It starts with your body language. Open yourself to their emotional needs. Gregorio Billikopf, an interpersonal relationship expert at the University of California, Berkeley says if you begin the conversation standing, invite the person to have a seat with you. Another thing you can do as a listener is position yourself below their eye line. This puts the person venting in a more active “storyteller” position and you in a better “listener” position. While in this position, maintain eye contact. It’s okay to look down or away occasionally, but try to keep steady eye contact. Billikopf also notes that, as a listener, it’s important to avoid interjecting. Don’t offer input, suggestions, or guidance to the person venting until after the person has had the chance to get it all out. “During this venting process, there is still too much pressure for a person to consider other perspectives,” Billikopf says. While you don’t want to interject, you do want to be an active listener. This means you don’t want to be completely silent. This is where “reflective listening” comes in. Occasionally repeat what the speaker says — but don’t use their exact phrasing. Reword slightly in a sympathetic manner. Don’t spin their words or mistakenly interject an opinion, as it may not be the opinion they’re interested in hearing. Alternatively, listening cues like “mm” or “hm” and nods are always welcome. One last thing to keep in mind: You do not need to offer a solution to the person’s problem or concerns. They may just be venting to get their negative emotions out, not looking for answers or explanations. If they are looking for answers or guidance, wait for them to ask. In the meantime, lend your ear and let them know you’re there for them going forward.
Sure, everyone wants this holiday season’s “it” item, but sometimes the best gifts don’t even come wrapped under the tree. Instead, look to your own talents as a clue to what you should give. If you’re a great crafter, create something unique for the people on your list. If you can offer the gift of time, provide a free night of babysitting for your friends with kids or an experience at the local theater. These gifts have a bonus factor: Recipients love the gift when they open it, and they love it when they get to use it!
Set a budget — and stick to it.
Setting a holiday budget ensures you only spend what you can afford. It also narrows down your search. If you choose to buy your neighbor something, but they aren’t your top priority, set their budget at a lower level, like $25–$50. If you have a sibling who has had a rough year and you’d like to make their holidays a little brighter, bump their budget up. This narrows the focus of what you’re looking for so you don’t stumble into something you can’t afford. Ultimately, it’s the spirit of giving during the holidays that makes them so rewarding. With a little ingenuity, you can be generous and avoid the stress of excess debt come January.
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