Got gift mania? Tips to keep a budget and stay sane – Daily News

on Nov29
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How do you feel about gifts? I’ve always loved giving and receiving them. When it comes to receiving, I don’t like just any old gift, any old way. The suspense, the mystery, the curiosity of what’s “in the box” is what is tantalizing for me.

I also enjoy noticing aspects of the gift that shows a bit of thought on the part of the gift-giver. The present itself does not have to be fancy, and it does not need to be costly. But surprise and thoughtfulness are what delight me.

I did not always like surprises when it came to gifts. In fact, I was doggedly determined to discover the details if I thought something was being planned for me. It was not necessarily that I wanted to “best” those who desired to surprise me –the suspense was just unbearable.

But this quest to reveal secret plans was shortly arrested before my 11th birthday. My father called home one day to talk with my mother. At that time,  phones were hardwired. Because of this, we had phone extensions throughout the house. I called out for Mom to pick up the phone where she was – and then, I covered up the mouthpiece where I was and listened quietly.

They were talking about my birthday – and they were planning on getting the special guitar I had wanted forever. I could hardly contain myself with excitement.  And I must have made a noise, because suddenly, Mom stopped in mid-sentence.

Her tone became dark, as she slowly said, “Well, Daddy. I believe someone is listening to our conversation. I guess the surprise has been ruined. Patti, maybe we should just put the guitar away and keep it for next year.”

I bit my lip as I softly hung up the phone, tears streamed down both cheeks. My excitement had ruined everything. I was a bad girl. I should be ashamed. At least, this was the story I told myself. Dinner that night felt like a funeral. I couldn’t look my parents in the eye, and no doubt, I slunk away quietly to bed.

Did I still get the guitar on my birthday? Yes. But the joy had been lost as I unwrapped that big, festive box and took out the prized guitar to hold and strum. Instead of something exciting, the instrument was a reminder of what I had done, and the sight of it made me feel small and ashamed. It was hard to play from the very beginning, as it was associated with bad feelings and regret. And I soon abandoned it.

The lesson I take from that memory is that I never want to do something to detract from the giver’s delight in gifting me something, large or small. For I enjoy delighting those whom I gift – and they should also be able to experience that same joy when they think of me with a similar gesture.

What kind of experience is meaningful for you as you think about receiving gifts?

When it comes to giving gifts, I ask myself two questions:

1. What is my budget?

2. What sort of gift will be meaningful for the recipient?

Knowing my budget lowers my stress and makes things so much easier when shopping. This requires that I have already determined a budget for the year to include birthdays, holidays, and other special occasions – and that I have planned for it by tucking savings away.

Identifying what will be meaningful for the person receiving the gift requires that I take an active interest in the other person, paying attention to what is important to them. The movie, A Christmas Story, is a vivid reminder of the disappointment that can otherwise occur. When pre-teen boy Ralphie opens a present from his great aunt, he discovers a giant pink bunny-themed footie pajama complete with a bunny-eared cap. This gift clearly does not respond to Ralphie’s age and interests. He is dismayed and viewers can see his utter revulsion and disappointment.

Creating boundaries around spending, then, as well as seeking to acknowledge the person in a meaningful way requires additional thought and planning. However, the results honor the spirit of giving in a responsible and most meaningful way.

Lately, I have asked my family to shy away from spending on me and instead, think about creating an experience for me that gives me time with them. Walks in the canyon, a day at the dog beach with our four-legged critters, or a specially cooked dinner with a movie at home are some of the lovely things I have received. These gifts of shared experiences and thoughtful connection are great treasures, and I hope, a legacy that my children pass on to their own families.

Is it time to shift gears as you think about your own gift-giving? How can you make this a more meaningful and enjoyable experience for both you and the gift recipient? I invite you to have some conversation around this with your family and those friends you include in your giving. They will probably appreciate the thoughtfulness behind it, which is a gift in itself.

Patti Cotton works with business owners, executives and their companies, to elevate and support leadership at all levels.

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