During this holiday season find meaning without spending money

December 16, 1999|By LYNN F. LITTLE

The holidays are fast approaching. It's important for families to search for ways to build lots of meaning into the season without going into debt.

Many people wrongly believe that the more expensive the gift, the more meaningful the message behind it. Here are some ideas of how to get through the holidays without spending so much money.

cont. from lifestyle

Reduce the gift-giving frenzy by setting a different standard for your family. Purchase gifts with special meaning related to your ethnic, cultural or family heritage.

Or give gifts you've made or that require your time or talent. Consider asking each person to offer at least one homemade, personally created gift. This might be a child's artwork, a poetic reading, a loaf of nut bread, a computer card or scrubbed whitewall tires. What could you give?


Dig through closets for old toys. Spruce them up. Wash plastic dolls, glue game pieces, sew new eyes on the stuffed animal. Then, give these transformed toys to needy children in your community. By giving to others, you relive the message of the holidays . . . "good will to all people" . . . "peace on earth" . . . "miracles are possible" . . . "you can make a difference."

Ask each family member to complete the sentence, "What I want from you that you can't buy . . . ," then create ways to give these gifts instead of spending money.

Here are some things that may be mentioned: play a game with them, read to them, let them go to the pet store and play with the puppies, stay up really late, wear your sweater to school, have your hair brushed, have the pots and pans cupboard straightened, have your back scratched. This is an excellent alternative for couples who don't want to or can't afford to spend money on each other but still want to express their caring for one another.

A variation of this "gift-giving" is to give a gift in fantasy. Write a card or find a picture that tells the recipient, "If I could give you anything I wanted to, I would give you . . ."

Offer a priceless gift of your family tree. This fits in wonderfully with the meaning of Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa.

Collect pictures, make charts or write narratives of your family tree and give these as gifts to your children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Don't think you have to tell the whole story in one gift. Choose one era of your life, one relative or one time of year to talk about. Memories and your family heritage are treasures money cannot buy.

Take time to sit in candlelight or firelight and listen to the quiet without rushing off to shop or to attend a holiday function.

Planning ahead

After the fact, discuss with other family members what were the best things that happened during the holidays and what things weren't worth the effort.

Keep a list of these things and refer to them when you plan next year's schedule or other family celebrations.

In a season when time is already scarce, it makes a lot of sense to take a few minutes to pause and plan ways to bring meaning back into the celebrations without breaking the bank!

Maryland Cooperative Extension programs are open to all citizens without regard to race, color, sex, disability, age, religion or national origin.

Lynn F. Little is a family and consumer sciences extension educator for Maryland Cooperative Extension, Washington County.

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