Avoid Being a Holiday Shopping Zombie by Using This Method Instead!

The holiday shopping season is quickly approaching, and you’re probably already having panic attacks about what to get your loved ones. You’re wracking your brain trying to think of the perfect gift for everyone.

Even if you’ve only known someone for a short time, you might have some unique ideas. However, if you’ve known someone for a long time, chances are you’ve exhausted all of your creative gift ideas.

The panic has set in, and you are dreading the upcoming hours spent at the mall and online shopping for materialistic gifts for those you care about. But you’re missing the bigger picture: time is the most valuable commodity we all have in our mortal lives. So, for every hour spent shopping, you are devoting time that you could have spent with the same loved ones.

The meaning of the holiday season

Previously, the holiday season served a very different purpose. It was a time to celebrate the birth of baby Jesus if you were religious. If you weren’t, it was a good opportunity to spend quality time with family and friends.

Somewhere along the way, the Hallmark era arrived and gave birth to the Santa Claus story and the associated gift-giving activities. Of course, each child eventually realizes that Santa isn’t real, sobs for a while, and moves on with his or her life.

However, the act of giving presents persists for some reason. The retailers out there have made certain that you continue to associate gift-giving with demonstrating that you care. In reality, it may have the opposite effect because not every gift is required or a perfect fit, so you may force the receivers to deal with unloading the gift.

We’re programmed to buy!

The main point is not whether you like the gift or not. We have been programmed as a consumer society to buy, buy, buy. The problem is that exchanging material goods with our loved ones does not increase the level of happiness we or they feel. Sure, for a few moments, but then we’re back to normal.

If you go into debt to buy presents along the way, which many people do every year, you completely screw yourself.

How we celebrate the holidays

We wanted to break the cycle of giving gifts, so we took the road less traveled. About two years after we started dating, José and I stopped exchanging gifts. Not by chance, this was also when we discovered the concept of financial independence and jumped on board. Instead, we wanted to spend more quality time together during the holidays, so we spent money on experiences rather than things.

These experiences included things like spending a weekend away in a bed and breakfast, going out to a nice restaurant, or simply spending time with each other, rather than wasting our lives’ energy on shopping malls.

We only go to the mall now to get more exercise because it’s too cold to walk outside in Philly in December. However, seeing the other stressed-out shoppers there makes us feel sorry for the unknowing consumers. They believe they have no choice in the matter of holiday shopping when, in fact, they do.

We began to shift our mindset toward spending money on experiences rather than gifts. We shared our unconventional methods with friends and family. As with any new product, there were some early adopters in our circle who were more than happy to forego gift-giving. Instead, around the holidays, we’d gather in a nice BYOB restaurant or someone’s home and enjoy the good food and company.

Friends and family join in on the fun

As the years passed, more and more of our friends and family joined us in our holiday tradition. We now spend December and January visiting our loved ones in relaxing and memorable settings.

This method is also beneficial to those around you who are struggling financially. When you give someone a nice gift, they feel obligated to repay the favor and may end up carrying a balance on their credit card to do so.

Shopping for children is one exception to the “no-gift-exchanging movement.” We still get the kids in our circle gifts for holidays and birthdays, preferably a book, a development toy, or cash for their future FI fund. 🙂

Our approach to birthdays and anniversaries

We eventually extended the same approach to other important celebrations, such as birthdays and anniversaries. We take an annual trip to the Dominican Republic for our wedding anniversary. While there, we enjoy sipping Presidente beer and sipping piña coladas on the island’s beautiful beaches. On the same trip, we also pay a visit to José’s family, so we’re killing two birds with one stone.

For birthdays, we try to make thoughtful gifts for each other, such as putting together photo books or making coupon books. The coupon book is free, but the benefits it contains are priceless!

We finally converted all of our friends and family to our birthday traditions this year. For example, my sisters and I celebrate our birthdays together. The birthday girl is treated to activities of her choice (favorite restaurant, movies, etc.), and we have a good time together. There are no gifts exchanged. We then pass it on to the next birthday girl in line. I’m the same way with my friends. As a result, there are several sub-groups, but I’d want to spend time with each of them anyway. So it all works out.

If you are hesitant to switch to the experience method all at once, start gradually. Offer this approach to a few of your friends or family members and see who takes it. You’ll save yourself and the other person time this holiday season if you offer to change now.

Another option that is FI-friendly and cuts down on shopping time is to organize gift-exchange parties with a group of friends and family. Here are some fun suggestions.

So, what do you think? Are you ready to leave the mall herd and forge your own path to true happiness with your family and friends?

What holiday traditions do you have to avoid the shopping frenzy? Do you have any suggestions for making the holidays simpler and happier?

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Bladimir Mercedes
8 years ago

Time is really the most valuable commodity in the universe. I’m gonna let that sink in my own head for the next couple of years.

8 years ago

So true, Bladimir, and you never get it back again. So, let’s expedite that “sinking in” process to a matter of days or weeks, instead of years, shall we? 🙂 Carpe Diem!

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