Have you ever felt like your holiday spending gave you a hangover? The Holiday Shopping Hangover is when you spend so much money that, when January comes, you open your bank and credit card statements and wonder, “What did I even do?”. You end up feeling sad, resentful, or guilty about the money you spent over the holidays.

There are ways to avoid the Holiday Shopping Hangover. I’ve been talking to a lot of clients and people to discover the root cause. I’m finding that there are three main areas where the situation doesn’t necessarily feel good. The Holiday Shopping Hangover isn’t the result of awesome gift exchanges.These are typically situations where you can change the dynamics around gift giving.

Organize Gift Giving At The Office and Large Family Gatherings

One situation I often see is when everybody at work or a family gathering buys everybody something super cheap. For example, lets say you have ten people in your office giving out nine cheap gifts. It usually results from you finding a gift on your desk and then you feel as though you have to reciprocate. But you can’t just reciprocate for the one person. The next thing you know, you end up buying cheap gifts for nine people. Even if you spend just $5-$10, it still adds up.

This also happens in families where there’s a lot of kids, uncles and aunts, or siblings. If you must give a gift, it’s as simple as suggesting a grab bag or a Secret Santa. If you’ve never done one, you can put everyone’s name in a hat and take turns to pull a name. If someone in your family or office likes to take initiative, there are free websites that will help you organize Secret Santa through your email – complete with set dollar amounts and wishlists.

If you’re less organized, a grab bag requires a set a dollar amount like a $10, $20, or $50 gift. The day of the grab bag, everyone brings a gift to throw in the bag. Each person pulls something out and you can have more fun with it that way. These activities help to avoid the stress of having to buy meaningless gifts. You know, like the $15 Yankee Candle for the lady that works next to you (that you don’t necessarily like and definitely don’t know what she wants). That’s one situation to avoid. There’s extra stress and not a lot of meaning in that type of gift giving. It doesn’t feel good or joyful.

Share An Experience With Those You Love

There are people that you really love and you actually want to spend time with it at the Holidays. For awhile, I did this with my own family. I have two brothers. At Christmas time, we would all buy each other gift cards. I would go out to the stores and buy two $50 gift cards. In exchange, I would get two gift cards. Between the three of us, we were taking six trips to buy gift cards. Plus, you have to go use the gift card. There was one year we were all a little tight on money and so we decided to spend a night hanging out instead. We still do this today.

I cook something, one of my brothers brings beer, and we all hang out together. We have so much fun, busting out childhood games and stories, and it takes a lot of the pressure off. This does three different things for you.

First, when it’s people that you really love and you really want to hang out with, it gets the material aspect out of spending time together. That way, you can have more fun and enjoyment.

Second, you avoid having extra crap coming into your house. Most of us have plenty of stuff and really don’t need much more. I think people past a certain age also don’t want much more.

Third, it lets you set a later date for that outflow of money. December and the Holidays tend to be one of the areas where we really run out of cash flow. Some stuff ends up on the credit card, but if you can do something like this, you can even plan something a little bit more fancy, like dinner and a show. And you can put it off until January.

Don’t Be Afraid to Give Gifts Made With Love

Last night, I had a meeting with my clients and it was funny. I had a group of women in my office and we were talking about the most and least meaningful gifts that we have given and received. This entire group of women pretty much all agreed that the most meaningful gifts for them are items that are handmade. Handmade items from their kids and cookies stood out as their favorite. It was funny because those were the same gifts they saw themselves as being cheap when they gave them. This is a disconnect.

The stuff that they love to receive is the same stuff that they were afraid to give. I just want to throw this out there to start to bridge that gap for you guys. If you know that you’re going to need X number of hostess gifts, think about some of those things in advance and then batch out some homemade gift ideas.

One client told me that she makes homemade bark, which is a delicious chocolate treat. The people who get the bark are pumped about it. It’s a cost effective way to give gifts, but it’s also nice to receive because it’s really delicious and made with joy. You can easily dress it up and it’s something beautiful. It’s joyful to make, joyful to do, and well received. It’s better than stopping at the drugstore on my way and buying a bag of chocolate truffles. Not that there’s anything wrong with it, but it’s a nice way to incorporate a lot of meaning into your holiday without having to spend a lot of money.

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