Take the Stress Out of Gift Giving This Holiday

Take the Stress Out of Gift Giving This Holiday

The holidays are here, and if you know me, you know that it’s my favorite time of the year (closely followed by college football, of course).  I love everything about the holidays.  The traditions, the weather, the family time, the food, the get togethers.  I love it all. That being said, the holidays can be a bit stressful.  And one of the most stressful things for people?  Gift giving.  This is a bit ironic, given that gift giving originated as a way to show love and care.  But now it’s morphed into a super stressful process.


You feel pressured to find the perfect thing, and you spend hours searching.  Feelings of inadequacy can creep up, as you feel pressured to spend more than you have.  And you feel overwhelmed, trying to match what others are doing or what you did last year. The pressure around gift giving, particularly at the holidays, can leave you stressed and overextended.  So do yourself a favor and take the stress out of gift giving with one of these three, creative ideas.



1. Create a new tradition.  Instead of giving a gift, create a new tradition with friends or family, and make it a practice to do this every year together.  Agree that this tradition, this experience, is your gift together.  Have dinner at a favorite restaurant, meet at your favorite bar or coffee shop for a cozy, wintertime drink.  Drive around and look a holiday lights with hot chocolate in hand.  Host a gingerbread house decorating party, or have a pajama party and holiday movie marathon together.


The tradition doesn’t have to be expensive or fancy.  In fact, I think it’s best when it’s simple yet intentional.  With just a little bit of thought and planning, you can turn something pretty ordinary into a magical holiday tradition.  (For more tips on how to do that, see this post.)  We gave up gift giving with our best friends a few years ago, instead opting for a new, holiday tradition together.  It’s now one of my favorite things about the holiday, and it’s also contributed to some pretty special memories with our besties.


2. Give experiences, not things.  You don’t need to be a psychologist to know that stuff doesn’t make us happy.  Stuff is temporary, and so is the high that comes with acquiring it.  Research is super clear about this.  People get greater happiness from experiences rather than things.


One reason for this is that the waiting involved with an experience adds to the value.  Often the anticipation and excitement leading up to an experience contributes to greater happiness than the experience itself.  (This is totally true with vacations!)  Another reason to gift experiences rather than things?  Experiences aren’t as easy to compare.  As humans, we’re wired for comparison.  It’s annoying and unhelpful most the time, but it’s natural.  If two friends exchange gifts, it’s easy to compare who spent more, or who got what where.  This is more difficult to do with experiences.  And when we reduce comparison, satisfaction and enjoyment go right up.


Take the Stress Out of Gift Giving via Dr. Allison Answers


Maybe there’s something cool in your friend’s city that they’ve been wanting to try.  Gift that.  Perhaps there’s an upcoming concert that you both want to go to.  Or an awesome exhibit coming to the art museum in your city.  Give that.  Or maybe your friend is just getting into photography.  Get them a class at a nearby studio or workshop.


Experiences are so much more memorable than things.  And they contribute to longer lasting happiness.  Throw in the anticipation factor I mentioned before, and it’s a no brainer.


3. Give the gift of what you’re good at.  I love that we’re seeing a cultural return to handmade and homemade items.  And while you might think that homemade is the cheap way out when it comes to gifts, it’s not at all.  It’s both personal and meaningful.  A winning combination when it comes to gift giving.


Think about what you’re good at, and leverage that.  Many of you know that my husband is a super talented photographer, and this year, we kept gifts super small with his family.  Everyone got a framed print of one of his photographs, and we selected each photo based on a memory we have with that person.  If photography isn’t your thing, maybe knitting is.  Maybe baking or cooking or painting is.  Whatever you’re good at, leverage that for gift giving.  Turn that into a thoughtful expression of love.


But if you’re thinking, “Allison, I don’t have a talent, I’m not good at anything like that.”  Dig deep.  Think outside of the box.  For instance, I’m not really crafty or artsy.  But you know what I am good at?  Creating guiding meditations.  (You can listen to them here!)  So maybe I record a few personalized meditations for people I love, integrating specific memories or scenes they find calming.  You might not be a world-renowned painter, but you’ve got a talent or a gift.  So leverage that, and create a thoughtful gift.


Gift giving doesn’t have to be stressful.  In fact, it’s completely counterintuitive to the reason we give gifts in the first place.  So choose to do things differently this year.  Your relationships, your stress level, and your memories will thank you!


What’s your take on gift giving?  Are you on board for changing things up this year?


PS: Looking to maximize joy this holiday season?  Check out these five simple tips to do just that!


  1. Salma

    I absolutely love love love this post… Love the holidays and everything about it and love your new take on gifts its so so cool… Thank u…. For reminding me Giving gifts should be more about creating meaningful experiences and joy in the heart than actual things themselves

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