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Coping With The Emotional Crunch of Christmas Giving


Christmas gift giving is a time-honoured tradition that has become an indelible part of the Christian world’s year end custom. It’s the proverbial most wonderful time of the year for children, retailers, and altruistic empaths alike. 

The holiday spending deluge can, however, become overwhelming at times, and the pressures of gift giving will often exact a heavy financial toll. How can you avoid the January crash? Keep reading, we’ve got a few amazing tips for keeping your holiday spending in check, and starting the new year in decent fiscal condition, for a change. 

Mrs Latisha Lister-Burgess, Executive Director of the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) Bermuda, has put together a webinar entitled “Navigating Holiday Stress,” which tackles the emotional side of gift giving and offers various ways to show love through giving that won’t end in personal financial ruin. 

“One of the things I have always suggested to people is that they work out their budget before they even go out; so, define what you can spend this season, and how you want to break up that spending. Then envelope it, because sometimes we’re tempted when we see something and it’s like, ‘Oh well I intended to spend $20, and this is just $37, you know, well, it’s fine because it’s on my card, it doesn’t feel the same way.’ But when you have an envelope of this is what I’m intending to spend everywhere, you can be aware that, if you’re taking that extra 20, it’s coming from who’s gift? 

“So, listing out what you’re trying to spend, and who you’re trying to spend it on makes it a very real process, because swiping a card always feels very quick and easy, and it’s always easy to spend a lot of money that way, and not feel connected to how much is actually being spent.” 

Mrs Jamillah Lodge, Communication and Development Director at the BEDC, offers a similar strategy; “When shopping for Christmas gifts, I personally make a list and determine the amount that I am willing to spend on each person on that list. I also give some thought to who should be on the list and why.” 

Aah, the list. Who do we really need to be buying gifts for? What kind of gift does each person, um, deserve? How much money is each relationship on your list worth? These are monumentally hard questions to deal with, but if you have the will, there is a way. 

Mrs Lister Burgess addresses the all-encompassing list: “Assess: does everyone need to be on this list? About five or six years ago we as a family sat down and said, ‘Hey, is this sustainable for people?’ Getting a $5 gift for this Aunty, this Aunty, this Aunty adds up really quickly, so it might be easier to put money towards an experience. 

“For example, people could free up their money and say, ‘I’ll put some dollars towards buying the Christmas tree, or the ham, or something,’ instead of feeling like ‘I’m buying all these $10 gifts that add up really quickly.’ So, the first thing is, does everybody really need to be on this list? My list gets shorter and shorter every year.” 

If you keep your list in check, then controlling the cash flow out of your bank account will become that much more manageable. Mrs Lister continues: “Once you’re clear on your list and you’re clear on that budget, then it helps you to cleanly decide how good you are at sticking to it. The biggest part of that is, often, the emotional part of money gets in the way, and we start to feel like ‘is this a good enough gift? You know it’s only $20 versus $50 versus $200’ and realizing that we cannot tie relationship value to a present’s value. ‘I love this person so much that I have to spend $1000 on them.’ Do you have that? No? Well then here’s other ways that you can show that you love them that won’t break the budget; homemade and creative gifts work!” 

Avoiding the pitfalls of putting a price on emotions like love and admiration can be authentically impossible at times and equating a gaudy gift with care and affection is a trap we can all fall into. Mrs Lister Burgess elaborates: 

“Often we think that somehow whatever we do in this one month is going to make up for all the things that didn’t happen this year. Chances are, if you, for example, have not been a great parent this year; that toy is not going to make up for the lack. If you have not reached out to your family member all year and been a part of their life, a spa day is not going to push us into a different relationship. I’ll take your gift, but it doesn’t mean that we’re going to go on to having the relationship that we need to have. It’s really important that we don’t get caught up in the hype of, ‘I have to prove my worth.’ 

“The biggest part when it comes to the emotional factors is to literally decide what matters to us and this person and not tie it to the dollar parts. We don’t have to always think ‘I’m going big’ to go personal, and personal always wins.” 

On the practical side of Christmas shopping, Mrs Lodge offers tips on where to shop for thoughtful, unique, and often homegrown gifts that will definitely communicate all that you want to say. 

“My first tip would be to shop locally. There are a lot of small business owners offering fabulous deals on unique and custom items just in time for the holiday season. Check out the BEDC’s local business directories on 

“I would also advise to establish a budget and stick to it. In the instance where there is a desire to ‘do it big’ then perhaps the recipient of the ‘big’ gift, only gets that gift and not multiple gifts. Look at your shopping list and ascertain who and why they are on the list. If the goal is to let them know that you are thinking of them over the holiday season, then a beautifully written card can do the trick and not cost too much.” 

Mrs Lodge suggests that emotion should not override sensibility when shopping for gifts; “Gift giving does not have to be about how much you spend, but how thoughtful you are…If you take note of a family member saying that they need a gym membership or want to get a pedicure, you could gift them that very thing and, although it may not be considered an expensive gift, it is something that they wanted and will use, and it shows that you were listening.” 

There’s a reason why the old adage ‘It’s the thought that counts’ is uttered ad nauseum throughout the holiday season. It is, in fact, the thought behind the gift that matters most, and presenting a loved one with a gift that says ‘I listen to you’ will always be a great idea. 

Mrs Lister-Burgess concludes with a pearl of absolute sagacity: “Lean into memories and lean into experiences; it’s always better to have ‘presence’ with a C-E over ‘presents’ with a T-S. Give people the gift of our presence versus just another present.” 

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