These days I buy very few Christmas presents – just for a couple of loved ones. Christmas used to be a nightmare for me. Over the years I’d accumulated a large number of people who I would buy for, and many of my friends also had anything between one and three children. It would end up with me buying for about 25 individuals each year. And naturally I’d have to mail out the majority of those, find appropriate boxes for toys etc. And since my family and many friends are in Britain, the cost of mailing would be ramped up for those folks.
I don’t even want to admit to how much money I’d end up spending on presents and postage each Christmas. Not to forget the stress of the shopping. I really don’t like shopping at the best of times, so when I’m forced into action, it’s even more painful. And I’d have to start around early October so I could gather a few every week. It was getting simply ridiculous. And those same 25 or so folks – I’d be doing similarly for their birthdays each year too!
Eventually one year I lost it. Enough was enough. The cost was tremendous, as was the pressure to be organized – I’d literally have calendar alerts on my phone every month, reminding me to buy and mail someone’s present! It wasn’t just about “me” though, it was bigger than that. As I’ve gotten older, the “extreme Hallmark-ing” of Christmas has hit me more and more.
Don’t get me wrong, I love the festivities and gift exchange, but the intensity of it all is just bizarre these days. Now it seems that an iPhone is a mere stocking stuffer for many kids! Gone are the days when kids would have tangerines and chocolates in their stocking.
So anyway, I decided to go cold turkey. A few years ago, after one Christmas was over, I contacted everyone for whom I’d usually buy presents, and announced that I’d no longer be doing so for Christmas or birthdays. And instead, I’d be making donations. I said that if anyone had any particular charities that they’d like me to donate to, I’d be happy to do so. And similarly, I asked those folk who’d buy for me, to also stop. And if they just had to think of me at Christmas or on my birthday, they too could donate in my honor instead.
I can’t even tell you the amount of joy this process brought me. The stress of all the present organizing was instantly gone. And most importantly it felt so much better knowing that my money was going to some charity each birthday month, as well as at Christmas.
So I’ve donated to a number of different charities this Christmas, as well as throughout the year in honor of birthdays. And a few weeks ago I did package up a big box full of holiday goodies that I’d bought for a bunch of Marines in Afghanistan – that felt nice sending some cheer overseas!
I know this idea isn’t for everyone, and I realize that the economy has left most people financially short, but even if you can spare one or two dollars every so often to add to a charity box, it will make a big difference to someone.
One of my favorite ways to help, is through the Green Beans Cup of Joe for a Joe program. For just $2 you can send a coffee to a random military servicemember overseas, along with an accompanying note. And you can pay via PayPal, so they make it easy. They have an online store too, so I actually bought some coffee for myself a few months ago.
I sent out a number of Cups of Joe for the holiday. It’s a very sweet way to put $2 to good use.
So if your friends or loved ones are deployed, encourage them to sign up for this program so that they too might get a smile in the form of a coffee one day!
Hope everyone’s Christmas holiday is continuing to go smoothly!