The Peer Pressure of Giving

Kelly Ann Butterbaugh

Since when was it an expectation to spend a fortune buying gifts for each holiday? The springtime advertised Mother's Day sales touted jewelry for hundreds of dollars to "show Mom how much you really care." What happened to the days of handprints papers and cards with glitter? Television and print ads create expectations that every holiday, from Valentines Day to Father's Day, warrants an expensive gift. With this expectation, no wonder credit card debts are rising.



Many consumers today lack the patience required to tackle advertisements. Yes, the newest iPod is alluring, but it's not a necessity. It will be on sale again and again in the time it takes for someone to save the money needed to purchase it without financing. Avoid the "I want that now" mindset. Often you'll find that by waiting you really come to feel that the item in question is not as necessary as it originally seemed. Look at all the things in your home that you bought with great expectations, but in reality they sit more than they're used. Patience conquers that problem.


Remember when Christmas and birthdays were the only two holidays for receiving large gifts? As a child, I used to wait for months until I received the gift I wanted. Do children today still do this? Work to instill the mindset that gifts aren't to be expected at every holiday. A small token on the spring holidays is appropriate, but expensive video games or $40 action figure sets aren't to be expected. This habit is difficult to break once established, but it can be done.


Try to have sit down talk with children about finances. Even small children can understand that items cost money. A walk through their rooms with a toy count can help them to understand the idea of "enough." For every new toy received, one must go to someone less fortunate.

Talk to children about advertising. Explain that commercials are trying to sell products not help the viewers. Open a discussion about each toy commercial, "What is it trying to sell?", "Is the toy really as fun as it seems, or will the thrill wear off in a few days?", "Is there an alternative that could be just as much fun?", "How does the commercial make the toy seem cooler than it really is?"


Look for problems with the examples set by adults. Do you purchase desired items without waiting? At holidays is everyone at a loss for what you want because you "have everything?" Set a good example for children with your own spending.


Start some new traditions in your household, ones that focus on acts rather than things. Create a Mother's Day tradition of breakfast and a family walk in the park. Fill Easter eggs with clues that lead to one reasonable prize at the end, something everyone can enjoy like a board game. Avoid the prize altogether and fill the eggs with silly activities that the finder must do before searching for more eggs. Find a way to make small gifts exciting so that the thrill of opening a dozen presents isn't the focus of holidays but instead the fun of the day. Try wrapping individual components separately to add to the fun but not the excess.

The Effect

This change in behavior isn't easy. It takes time and some devotion to change behaviors. Yet, the result will be worth it. A new generation that is oblivious to advertisements will be created, and they will not drag heavy credit card debts behind them. In turn, they will teach their children the same. Mom knows how much we really care; our actions not our gifts tell her that.

The Peer Pressure of Giving

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By Guest (Guest Post)
October 22, 20080 found this helpful

I completely agree. In fact, here is a tip that can relieve a lot of stress for your friends and family. Tell them ahead that you don't want them to buy any gifts for you this year. Find a kind way to say this, and focus on the spirit of the season. Tell them that if they really want to get you a gift (because giving can be so pleasurable) that a homemade card, a batch of cookies, a plan to go for a visit, a skate, or a movie later, or even a gift to a charity in your name could be a suitable substitute. To explain this you could say you are trying to bring back the true meaning Christmas, and you are trying to avoid the commercialism that can pollute the Christmas season. This will be one of the best gifts you can get your friends and family. I know.


I grew up in a large family where we rarely got Christmas gifts or Birthday gifts. Money was tight. But we always had a nice meal for Christmas and for birthdays mom made a birthday cake for after supper. I hated returning to school after Christmas because all the kids would be asking each other what they got for gifts. I was embarrassed because I knew the truth would subject me to teasing and ridicule, or worse -- pity, so I always had to lie, which made me feel bad and scared that someone would find out. I remember as I got older and made my own money, I had this mindset that I HAD to buy gifts for everyone. This caused a lot of stress (emotional and financial). Now that I'm older, I'm a little more comfortable with gift giving: one small gift per child (Christmas is for kids!) and if the kids are from the same family, I try to get a gift they can share. I give my parents one small gift, but they don't expect one and they don't give any, either. That's it for my large family. Everyone seems to accept it, and last Christmas one of my sisters said she was so relieved that our family does not give gifts to each other. She was very stressed with all the gifts for her in-laws.


I'm also very stressed about giving to my in-laws as I cannot afford much and they are very well off. They are super kind and they would not want me to go through any hardship, and if they knew how much it stresses me out at Christmas time, I know they wouldn't want me to give them a gift. I even get stressed about receiving gifts from them, because in my mind it makes me sad I can't get them anything equivalent to that. I'm still trying to work up the courage to deal with this.

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October 22, 20080 found this helpful

I agree. The people who complain that the holidays are too commercial are helping make them that way. I have stopped all gift giving except to the little ones and the amount of pressure that has fallen off my shoulders is so worht it! It's a hard subject to bring up, but more than likely the other person or people will appreciate it too, rather than be upset by it. Now we actually get to enjoy the family dinners and the dinners out with friends.

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October 22, 20080 found this helpful

Thank you so much for your article. You are so right that we are a society that worries entirely too much on buying. I also come from a large family and several years ago we all decided to change our tradition of exchanging gifts amongst ourselves. Instead we find a family in need and we all chip in and we make Christmas for that family. It is so easy to find those who are in need. Just ask your preacher, local school or you may even know of a family in need. After the family is picked, we get a wish list from them, again from whomever finds the family for us and we buy a few toys for the children but also clothes and we also include the parents as they almost always go without to make sure their kids have what they need. We get them clothes, household items such as cleaning supplies, toilet paper, ect. and we also provide their meal for Christmas day. We then arrange for someone to deliver all of this to the parents so they don't know who we are. When we decided to do this we all agreed that it should be done annonymously not only as to not embarrass the family, but more importantly, when you give it should be done from the heart and not for recognition. All of our children get plenty and usually more than they need at Christmas and it is a wonderful lesson for them. Giving in this way I think is the truly Christian thing to do. Remember the reason for the season. God first gave us all the ulimate gift of his only begotten Son!

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October 23, 20080 found this helpful

Great article. We have never done the big, expensive gifts in my house. And I bake for holiday gifts. We do give donations in lieu of gifts. We need to remember, it is the thought, not the gift, that counts. It is a bigger gift to spend time with others than to receive something materialistic.

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By (Guest Post)
October 23, 20080 found this helpful

I never have been very conventional, and the thing that I do for gift-giving falls into this very unconventional way of doing it. I have done the buying sale items and putting them up to save for Christmas, having to find a place to store everything, and wishing that Christmas/Birthday would get here quick so that I could give the special thing and see the reaction. I decided to go ahead and give the item that I had bought for the children to them as I got it, that way I didn't have to store it, I could have the pleasure of giving it and seeing their reaction and, let's face it, the whole reason for giving a gift is because you want to do it, not because you are pressured by the season.

I told my children that this was going to be my new philosophy, and that when Christmas got here, that they would not be receiving the usual gala of gifts, due to the items received all year long. I keep up with about how much I spend on each child over the year's time, and if one or the other of the children gets short-changed so to speak, at Christmas/Birthday, then I try to spend about what I have spent on the other children. (Actually, I probably wind up buying far more for them throughout the year, doing it this way, but I give because I love them, and it gives me pleasure to do something nice for them).

It takes a lot of pressure off of the holiday season, because it is done as I can during the year, not all at once at the end. I am on a very limited spending budget, and this way I can shop all the great clearance sales and get all the best bargains when the pressure is not on to buy, buy, buy! I do try to get the grandchildren something that I know that they would like, but more often, my husband and I try to help with the expense of a bicycle or some other such large item that the parents want to get for them.

I would love to be able to spend lots of money for everyone that I know, but since this is not possible, then the system that I have come up with works very well for our family, plus it lets the children know that I love doing for them all year long, and that I give because I want to, not because I am pressured to. Happy holidays everyone!

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October 28, 20080 found this helpful

I spent my life always trying to make for everyone something I thought would be the gift they'd just love.I was a well know designer. I had three children, worked on a farm full time, saving money every way I could think of, because we had very little. My family grew from my 7 siblings, to all their families. It became working every free moment I had! And I had few.
I have three married children and seven grandchildren. I still work through the year making amazing gifts for everyone. I give up. I'm lucky to get a thank you from the grandkids. My kids actually get rid of all the kids toys and older kids computer games, etc. to make room for the influx of new gifts. I've decided this year to mail each family a homemade candy gift, my kids favorites. Wish them Happy Holidays.
I always made sure my kids sent something to their grandparents,a handmade gift or a picture with a 'love note'. I'd give anything to get a picture of my grandkids with a note, love you Grandma.
I'm on such a tight budget now,job layoff and divorce, when I send money or give it to them in person, grandkids act like , wow ,not enough.
I've decided to make a tradition, Grandma sends the families their favorite fudge, or something. It will not take me all year making and probably be better received.
After a lifetime of giving way too much, finally realized, give what you have time for(homemade gifts) or money, give it with love, and live your own life. I will never eat up all my free time for a year, giving. I love giving, but realize it is the simple things that count. This is a new generation of children, you'd have to be so rich to satisfy their 'wants'. Best stick to a favorite family recipe, let "santa" spoil them.
I want them to remember maybe the Grandma that made great fudge, rather than the Grandma that did not give the newest, most expensive computer game. In the end, it was probably what they would have wanted!

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