Why You Shouldn't Buy Material Gifts for Christmas… Spend Time Instead

Don’t buy material gifts for Christmas – instead, spend time. Your nearest and dearest don’t want you spending money you don’t have on gifts they don’t want. What they actually want is to spend time with the people they love, having fun.

Increasingly, people are cash-rich, but time poor. We don’t spend nearly as much time with our family and friends as we should, even though it is incredibly important to our wellbeing. Instead, we try to make up for lost time with gifts of “things”.

In the lead up to Christmas, any guilt we may feel is artfully exploited by marketers – show you love him/her/them this Christmas – and it’s easy to get caught up in the materialistic expectations of society and spend a lot of money on gifts… yet, research shows us that about half of the presents we give aren’t wanted or valued.

Why material gift giving is not all that it’s cracked up to be

Material gifts are less appreciated or valued

In a 2017 study, participants were given $40. Half of them had to spend it on something physical, half of them were instructed to buy something that would save them time, such as a cleaner, a gardener or ordering in food. The people who were happiest as a result of their spending were the people who purchased “time”.

Tom Gilovich conducted a study that showed people felt more gratitude for experiences than material possessions. Time spent bush walking, building forts in the lounge or going to the park makes people happier than a gift. Not only do they feel happier, that gratitude lasts a long time- much longer than a gift would.

There is a lot of research that shows that having a holiday together gives more value than a gift ever could. Taking a holiday with your child makes them more intelligent, encourages bonding among the family, and gives valuable memories that become the stuff of family urban legends.

Material gifts add to environmental stress

Did you know, more than 50% of Christmas gifts are thrown out within a year? That’s a lot of waste. Then there is the wrapping paper and packaging – all thrown out and much of it to landfill. If you must give a material gift, think about its impact. Will it still be around in a years’ time or is it just another bit of nonsense made in a factory in China using child labour, which then degrades and contributes micro-particles of plastic to our waterways and oceans or ends up disposed of in the landfill?

It can make us feel guilty

If someone buys many gifts or expensive gifts, then it can pressure others into buying gifts that they simply cannot afford. No one wants to be called out as a scrooge so we can get caught in the trap of spending money we just don’t have and paying dearly for it with ongoing interest payments long after Christmas has been and gone.

It costs us – a lot!

If you forgo gift giving altogether, you stand to save a substantial amount of money. In2016, Kiwis spent an astonishing $6 BILLION shopping in December. While the actual spend varies from household to household, this averages out to approximately $1200 of spending per person! When you consider that much of that spend is for Christmas, it makes for a very expensive day.

How do you cut down on gift giving?

Many Kiwi families are cutting back on gift-giving. Below are a few ways of cutting back:

Secret Santa

The ‘secret Santa’ strategy is becoming more common. All the adults are allocated one person at random and have to buy a gift for that person only, up to an agreed certain dollar value. It means you still have a gift to open on the day – but it’s just one, and is more likely to be of good quality.

Get a pre-NUPP

We’re not talking about the pre-marriage kind. We’re talking about the Christmas pre-NUPP! This online tool ‘No Unnecessary Present Pact’ sends out an automated message to an email you enter that says, I won’t buy you a gift if you don’t buy me one. This is a great way to get people on-board with the no-present movement.

Plan a day together

Present your child or loved one with a voucher you make yourself. That voucher promises your time, one on one, no disruptions, for an activity of their choice. This starts the anticipation and the planning – which contributes to some of the enjoyment.Not only are you giving this person your attention on the day of this experience, but also while you plan this day together.

Then, plan this adventure together – get the person or child to come up with a list of things that they’d like to do together. This could be an afternoon, or a weekend event – the point is to create it together, within your budget.

Go for a weekend away, visit the zoo, go to the ballet together, go skiing, attend a cooking class, go on a bush hike – the options are limitless. It’s not so much about what you do, but more that you do it, together.

But what if you just have to buy a gift?

Give an experience

Giving an experience, particularly a shared one, makes stronger bonds between people. You do something together, you share emotions while doing it, and it’s a more personal experience than any gift ever could be. You can build on that experience later, giving a photo of the experience, buying the soundtrack to the concert you went to, or baking the cake at home that you learned about in the cooking class.

Spend time together

It’s easy to say don’t give gifts, but it’s hard to do with society’s expectations. However if you talk to others around you, you might be surprised to find that they feel the same way as you.

This year, think carefully about the gifts you give for Christmas. Give a gift that people really want – you.