• Tue, Dec 10 - 1:00 pm ET

I’m Too Broke To Shower My Loved Ones With Gifts So I’m Being A Better Friend Instead

111801323I’ve been writing about how disturbing it is to me that the holiday season is getting more and more about consuming and less and less about anything else. I’m probably just projecting because I am too broke to participate this year. A second child, a move, and a few months without steady employment will do that to you. I’m back on track now – but as anyone who has ever had a small break from income will tell you – the effects are lasting. It will probably take about two years to get back to the financial place I was in before I took six months off work. Ugh.

Not being as financially stable as I am used to being, I find myself getting annoyed at the mere mention of gifts. Being hyper-sensitive to this has made me realize how much of the season revolves around gift-giving. It’s stressing me out. I have my husband, my children, my sisters, my mother, a brother and his family, a nephew with a new baby – the list goes on and on. And I haven’t even gotten to a single friend yet.

In order to cope with my gift-giving inadequacies, I’ve been thinking of different ways I can reach out to friends and family without spending a lot of money. This involves Christmas cards and photos of my children – which I know is a big yawn – but I want everyone to know I am thinking about them. This led me to start thinking about all of the people I don’t keep in contact with as much as I should. This led me to reminisce about old friends, Christmas parties, gifts… I got downright nostalgic. I got an empty notebook and wrote down the names of all the people I missed and needed to make time to contact.

I figure all the time I’m not spending in a shopping mall will give me some extra time to put actual physical effort into hearing the voices of my friends and family. I started sending messages for “phone dates.” A conversation may not be the best gift out there – but it’s free, and it’s all I got this year. The notebook I wrote all my friends names in is a gift to myself; I put little boxes next to all their names so I can check off when I connect with them. You’d think it wouldn’t be too hard to make a phone call every couple months – but it is. There are people I love that I haven’t spoken to in years. That’s ridiculous.

This may sound stupid – but I think my inability to shower people with gifts may end up making me a better friend this year – or at least a more present one.

(photo: Getty Images)

You can reach this post's author, Maria Guido, on twitter.
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  • Amanda Lee

    Is it sat that I’m happy that I have one less present to buy because I’m no longer with my ex? :)

    • http://twitter.com/mariaguido Maria Guido

      Haha! No.

    • Kay_Sue

      Not in the least.

  • Bethany Ramos

    I love phone dates!!! A friend of mine promised me a wine and Skype date and never delivered. Another friend flaked out on our wine and Skype date. :( Regardless, connecting is a really great idea, and I know I would appreciate it from my friends.

    Also, our family does a white elephant “nice” gift for all of the adults with gifts for babies so that you don’t have to buy for everyone.

    • http://fairlyoddmedia.com/ Frances Locke

      I love the idea of a wine and Skype date!

  • LiteBrite

    “Being hyper-sensitive to this has made me realize how much of the season revolves around gift-giving.”

    I don’t think you’re hyper-sensitive. It’s pretty disconcerting to see how much of Xmas involves not spending time with family and friends but spending money.

    And I think your idea is awesome. Sometimes time is the best gift we can give.

    • http://twitter.com/mariaguido Maria Guido

      Thanks – these comments are making me feel better! But yeah – hard to tell if this was just great timing that I was realizing that xmas has turned into consumption, consumption, consumption. It’s depressing.

    • Rachel Sea

      I’ve placed something of a moratorium on Stuff. Having more crap just ends up meaning having more to clean. Only buying replacement items, or giving away two things for every one thing we buy is slowly making our house a cleaner more organized place. The less time we spend maintaining our stuff, the more quality time we spend together. A Christmas morning spent cuddling, drinking spiced (and spiked) cider, and watching a Christmas Story while the house fills up with the smell of roasting turkey is a lot more fun for me than opening presents. I love to give gifts, but I’d rather receive a nice card (which makes me a total hypocrite, because I also suck at holiday cards).

  • NicknamesAreDull

    Time is a gift. It’s a great gift.

    I think you’re being too hard on yourself. A conversation is a really nice gift. It’s hard to slow down and actually talk to the people we care about. Everything moves so quickly, and it’s hard to put the breaks on it. If one of my friends called me just to sit and chat, I’d be thrilled.

    • http://twitter.com/mariaguido Maria Guido

      Thanks! :)

  • SA

    I’ve just stopped doing gifts for the most part. For my parents/in-law and my child, and her sitter only. My husband and I will usually pick somewhere we want to go on a fancy date or day of fun as our gift to each other. It just got to be too much to do for everyone coming and going. I am not going to go into financial stress to purchase for others and I wouldn’t want anyone to do that for me. Occasionally when I have a little extra cash or see something really special I know someone would like I will do that. I’d rather people not spend the money on gifts and get together for a dinner out or something like that. Time is so much more special than crap.

  • Kay_Sue

    STFU, Parents posted a link today to an advice columnist that was tasked with answering, “My brother and his wife are rich and childless but they aren’t buying my kids any presents this year, how do I change their mind?” (Okay, that might be slightly paraphrased).

    Anyway, I was reading it and thinking, “How sad is it, especially at this time of the year, that people can be so hellbent that the only way to express love and affection for the ones nearest to you is to buy expensive things?” You hit the nail on the head–so much of the season has come to revolve around the gifts themselves, and it is stressful.

    I don’t think you are being hyper-sensitive at all, and I hope that your friends appreciate your efforts.

    • pixie

      I was just about to mention that article. That lady made me mad but the advice columnist made me feel a little better.

    • Kay_Sue

      Yeah, I was glad to see that at least some people in this world still have some common sense and decency.

    • Rachel Sea

      It left me wondering if Ted isn’t opting out because his siblings are insufferable jerks.

    • Amanda Lee

      I read that column! She (the LW) also went on to say that they donate presents to a local charity (don’t remember if it was for kids in the hospital or in foster care, but does it even really matter?) and buy presents for their godchild so she couldn’t fathom why they couldn’t buy presents for her special little snowflakes. The nerve of them!

    • Kay_Sue

      I know, right? Never mind that all of the other aunts/uncles, the parents, and grandparents exchange gifts, if this couple doesn’t, they are obviously just being stingy…

      it blew my mind.

  • Brokeass Mirror

    True friends don’t want monetary presents from friends who don’t have the means to spend money on gifts.

    You should buy new friends instead.

    • Kay_Sue

      I’ve heard they can be expensive for the latest models.

  • Rachel Sea

    I think that’s lovely. I hate the phone, and am a terrible letter writer, so when I’m too broke to shop, I share the love with food. I can make chocolate and toffee covered graham crackers for 20 people for about $25. The few people who wouldn’t want sweets get felt ornaments, which I can make for about $.10 each.

  • http://fairlyoddmedia.com/ Frances Locke

    I think trying to be a more involved friend and loved one is a wonderful gesture. I think the holidays are way too commercialized. I’ve always pretty much felt that way, but the last few years have been ridiculous. My husband and I decided about five years ago to forego the huge holiday hauls (alliteration!) for a more subdued holiday, and we’ve never regretted it.

    • Rachel Sea

      Every few years my wife and I forego gift giving (except Christmas jammies, that tradition is sacrosanct) in favor of a trip. I’m always happier to spend money on experiences than on stuff.

    • http://fairlyoddmedia.com/ Frances Locke

      My husband and I have discussed that possibility before as well. Maybe next year, now that he’s employed full-time again and I’m working more. I think it’s such a great idea. My youngest will be old enough to travel without being a PITA, too. lol

    • TheGiantPeach

      My BFF and her husband do this every year. I’ve been trying to convince mine but he’s not on board just yet. One day!

  • TheGiantPeach

    My cousin told me the other day that she has 36 presents under the tree for her 6 year old daughter, not counting her “big gift” and stocking from Santa. THIRTY SIX PRESENTS. My face -

    • Rachel Sea

      I choose to believe that each of those gifts contains an individual sock or pair of underwear.

    • Kay_Sue

      WTF? I wouldn’t have any room to move in my living room at that point…

  • candlesoffate .

    all the money i had saved for my son’s gifts went into my car. a tree decided to say hello to the back glass during our ice storm. poor guy has to wear last year’s coat. i’m a single mom doing EVERYTHING with NO help. I see pictures of everyone’s tree with presents under them and I can’t help but get depressed about all the stuff I was going to buy my son. The only time of year he gets anything new, besides his birthday. His 2 aunts and one grandparent will get him a gift. but there won’t be anything under the tree to take pictures of for his memory. there won’t be a visit to his “father”, a phone call or even a card. i try to be a good mom always. but this time of year

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