It’s that time of year–shopping, shopping, and more shopping as we try to find the perfect gift for family and friends, teachers and co-workers. There are many things I love about this time of year, but I could do without the commercial aspect of it, particularly when it feels like half the time I’m only giving something to mark the occasion rather than something the person really needs or wants.
Every year I start off with the best of intentions. I imagine taking the time to give gifts that really mean something, that I’ve made myself or with the help of the children, and yet I somehow always end up getting off-track and frantically stocking up on generic boxes of chocolates and bath products. Why does it always end up this way?
As I’ve said before, most of my frugal habits take some organization, and I have a hard time keeping several balls in the air at one time. The fact is, this time of year is just too darn busy. I’m finishing up a school term, meeting parents about grades, taking the kids to parties every weekend, trying to find the time to buy and decorate a tree, and before I know it it’s Christmas and we’re off to the in-laws’ house for a week.
I want to give real gifts, the kind that show the person I’m giving to that they are important to me. I want the investment of my time or money to reflect something, because time and money mean something, too. Part of being frugal for me is recognizing that there is an inherent worth to things and treating them accordingly. I want to be conscious of how and why I’m spending, and I want the things I’m spending my money on to show that.
Which is why I found myself dithering in the toy aisle of a big chain store over my lunch break today, unsure of what to do. You see, my oldest daughter made her list for Santa, carefully choosing what she wanted from the catalog and delivering her list directly to the man himself when we visited the Père Noël last weekend. What she wants is large, and plastic, and pink. It is precisely NOT what I would choose for her myself, but it is exactly what she wants.
I should say that we generally only give one or two small gifts to each child, which may seem meager to some but which I think make them that much more meaningful. Plus they get gifts from my family and my husband’s family, and my eldest’s birthday is two days after Christmas. Trust me, it’s enough.
So here’s my question for you: is it a better use of my money to buy her the gift that she wants, regardless of the questionable value of the product, because the real value is in giving her a gift that means something to her? Or, do I instead give her a gift that I find more appropriate and more “frugal” (in terms of price, size, sturdiness, NOT BARBIE FOR THE LOVE OF…ahem). Which is the gift more worth giving?