Give Without Regret
Welcome to the last few frantic shopping days of the Christmas season. There is little time allowed for reading financial blogs when you’re blowing wads of cash on gifts for uncle Bob, your third cousin Suzy, the mailman, your hair stylist and your best friend’s feline, Spot. The shopping list seems to get longer and longer each year and the budget got blown about fifteen people ago. But it is Christmas after all and there’s supposed to be great excitement and a sense of fulfillment in giving, right? But somehow the more we give the less good we feel about the whole enterprise. Our wallets are thinner and our smile is no fatter.
How could this be?
Perhaps the simple joy of giving from the heart got thwarted somewhere along the way by the pressure to give out of obligation. We have put too much emphasis on the material gift and we have tainted the act with a need to reciprocate and impress. The personal impact of giving died when our motives changed. Giving at Christmas is supposed to provide a small glimpse into the selfless love demonstrated by God in sending his only Son to rescue a fallen world. Giving soon-to-be-forgotten stuff is not the point and clearly pales in comparison.
No one speaks to the ill-placed emphasis on presents at Christmas better than the Grinch. All that junk we spent so much time and money to get for other people often goes unused, unappreciated and ultimately discarded.
There is certainly nothing wrong with truly expressing love and appreciation for someone around Christmas with a special gift. But it’s important to remember that it is not necessary to break the bank to do it. There are unique and appropriate ways to give to others that take into consideration your financial circumstances. If you’re a broke college student or a family living on a tight budget people will understand. We often forget that people can be very gracious. You would never think of looking down on someone who does not have the means to reciprocate a gift. Trust that others wouldn’t do it either.
The joy of the season came wrapped in a manger, not at the bottom of a tree. Give lavishly this Christmas, and if necessary, use money. That’s the bottom lion.