Mike: Take a year off and don’t buy anything for anyone this Christmas
Americans are expected to spend $1 trillion dollars this holiday season, an average of nearly $1,000 a person. This is up from last year, which was up from the prior year which was up … You get the point.
While we fight about the so-called war on Christmas, or on the whereabouts or interpretation of nativity scenes, or on the day’s status as a religious, secular, or commercial holiday, we always default to this: someone, somewhere deserves a present. Our spouses, partners, kids, employees. Ourselves. Whomever.
Even when we go on an austerity plan — picking names or eliminating adult gift giving — we still purchase something for someone. We buy less, but we still buy. We always do.
But now is your chance to take a year off. No presents. At least none you can buy. Not for a single solitary soul. This isn’t about being miserly and embracing your inner Grinch; it’s about giving something that matters more than a smart assistant, a retro turntable, or platinum jewelry, or Star Wars whatever, or boxing robots.
It’s your time.
Go make a list of the people and situations you love, the friends you don’t see enough, the kids you don’t take on a bike ride, the grandmother you forgot to call. Check that list twice. This is the list of people to whom to give your time.
Now make another list. It’s of the people and things you spend too much time on — the Netflix, the needless face time at work, the boozing, the people or situations that make you feel a little worse, a bit diminished each time you interact with them. Check that list twice, too. This is the time you are going to spend.
Now for the giving part. Take people on the first list and put them permanently, regularly on your calendar. Literally, write or type them in. Use that former gift money for a plane ticket, a dinner out, a coffee, a drive across town. Bank it instead of that voluntary overtime at work.
Let your kids, your spouse or your siblings know that they are going to get more — and more regular — blocks of your time instead of boxes of items. Yes, I know it’s going to be an adjustment, especially for the kids.
And that other list? You’d be surprised how much time and goodwill you can free up when those people and situations are hauled out of your calendar in the same way you clean out your garage, closet, or basement.
The Christmas season should be about giving. Actually, all year should be. And what about gifts on birthdays, graduations, anniversaries? Sure. Gift whatever and whoever you like. Knock yourself out.
But if you really want to capture the Christmas spirit — be you secular or religious — run away from the slow-drip corrosion that comes from buying wholly into one notion of holiday spirit at the expense of a more important one. Those boxes of things will be briefly loved then broken, tossed, yard-saled, and forgotten over time.
So start using the gift that asks less of your wallet and more of you.
It won’t be lost. It won’t be forgotten or exchanged. It will fit beautifully each time. And burnished by your memory’s repetition, it will just get better and more valuable.
Bring back Christmas by being present — not by buying one.
Tell me I’m wrong.
Listen to the Candy, Mike and Todd Show weekday afternoons from 3-7 p.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.