Happy SMART Day Everyone!
I’ve been doing a lot of thinking this year about the best and SMARTest way to celebrate the holiday season. While I’m no expert, Thom and I have tried several different ways throughout the years—everything from the traditional family in “It’s A Wonderful Life” to a vacation in Hawaii ala “Christmas with the Kranks.” While some experiences were more meaningful than others, I’m pretty certain I’ve discovered what it’s NOT. And even though I’m okay with buying myself something I want or need when necessary, I think it’s best to NOT end up making our Christmas or any holiday “present” about “self-gifting.” I mean really!?! Before that idea gains any more acceptable traction, let’s remember that the true meaning of a gift is something that we give—not something we receive.
Maybe the term “self-gift” has been around awhile, but the 2011 Christmas Season is the first time I noticed it as part of the holiday conversation. This year several news sources reported in the days following “Black Friday” that shoppers were participating in self-gifting more this year than ever before. In fact, 60% of shoppers said they planned to buy something for themselves. A report published by the National Retail Federation (NRF) found that 44% bought something for themselves on Black Friday compared to last year when only 33% did. Perhaps that explains why a woman pepper sprayed other shoppers at a Wal-Mart while fighting over a $2 waffle iron. Surely, that might clarify why dozens of young men camped out for two days in front of Best Buy so they could snag a dirt-cheap iPod or computer—for themselves. According to a story by USA Today, the retailer American Eagle Outfitters decided to promote sales this year by saying, “Live to Give. Love to Get. Great gifts and perfect presents for her, for him or for you.” Yeah, Merry Christmas to you too!
It’s not surprising that the NRF is tracking and helping to promote the idea of a new Self-Gift Tradition for the holidays for their retail members—after all, they are clearly in it for the money. But you and I would be SMART to stay conscious to this new endorsement for self-indulgence. Remember, it wasn’t too many years ago that bankers and mortgage brokers were pushing the idea that everyone needed, and yes deserved!, to buy their own home with no money down (and sometimes not even a job.) And didn’t everyone just have to have a credit card regardless of income? But look where that focus on greed and consumption took the country—along with millions of families across the country. While spending money on yourself isn’t wrong, calling it a “Christmas self-gift” is just propaganda aimed at your pocket book or credit card. What’s next? Figuring out how to make a year-end donation to yourself?
One big thing I’ve learned from all of the different holiday experiences that Thom and I have celebrated together is that none of the gifts mattered that much at all. In fact, after 35 years together I can hardly remember one year’s present from any other. What I do remember is the love we’ve felt for each other and the desire to show that love through a variety of tokens and experiences. When you think about it, that’s what matters most when giving any gift. So, regardless of what holiday you celebrate this month and what you think is the “true reason for the season,” you can be sure it isn’t about what great bargain you managed to score for yourself at what store. Instead, embrace the experience of giving to others and discover the happiness that comes when we strive to share our good, and take time to put others wants and needs before our own.
“There is no ideal Christmas; only the one Christmas you decide to make as a reflection of your values, desires, affections, traditions.” – Bill McKibben
The value of a man resides in what he gives and not in what he is capable of receiving.”–Albert Einstein