Thursday, December 4, 2008

Joy of Giving Throughout the Year and Less in December

A couple of decades ago, I totally gave up shopping for the "Christmas" season. As I became a more consistent giver of my time and resources throughout the year, I found the holiday rush to be frivolous and shallow. It unnecessarily raises my anxiety so I gave it up.

As a discipled Christian, I believe in looking for opportunities to love others through giving and that includes far more than just shopping or giving money ALL YEAR LONG. This practice has made my life more meaningful and manageable because life really isn't just about me and buying more stuff that brings more lasting clutter than joy.

For the past couple of Decembers, I baked cookies and gave them away to neighbors and a few friends. This year, I don't even plan on doing that: I lost 14 pounds in the last 18 months from working out more and simply eating less so I will neither tempt myself nor deliver butter-filled and sugary calories to my neighbors. I may pick up a couple of under $10 items for the neighbors this year or give them a poinsettia but over the past few years, we have learned to be good neighbors during sickness, abandonment, and simple checkup greetings on the way to work or after arriving at home, sweet home. Two or three of us have given ourselves as gifts throughout the years, as needed, and so, there's no need to overdo or outdo each other each December in giving more stuff.

I enjoy my simple friendships that only require an e-card, a traditional holiday card, or an email to let each other know that we care during this season. Since we succeeded in our efforts to see each other throughout the year, there's no anxiety about seeing them before the new year starts. We don't have crazy expectations that we must spend time together in November/December if it isn't a win-win for each of us. Calm, relaxing relationships give me more than any of them could go out and buy in a superstore. Our friendships are far more precious than stuff.

I have an 11 year old "millenial" in my life whom I've had the daunting/exhilarating task of mentoring and tutoring for almost 2 years and I am happy to do so free of charge. What I didn't expect was the joy I have in teaching him about giving throughout the year and how to manage December in spite of the intruding commercials he consumes at home: We have had several cheap or free experiences intermixed with costly outings as I attempt to share a balanced frugal life with him. He is starting to understand that being frugal doesn't mean you never spend money but you spend less on many things so that you can enjoy a few expensive things/experiences every now and then. Living extravagantly is never the goal of my frugal life but I am not against enjoying a few of the things that money can buy as long as I can safely pay cash for them. Of course, I will purchase a couple of items on his wish list and he really enjoys them because he doesn't get them all year long...and those wish list items aren't cheap!

I've learned to give more of my time to co-workers in angst or lend an ear to hurting hearts. I've learned to give myself more naps and all play Saturdays so that I can give more of my existence to others on weekdays. I've written more checks to charities working in 3rd world settings - including a few found in America - throughout this year and I've been able to give more cash away when I felt moved to do so and I don't care about not being able to write it off of my taxes. God is keeping count :D. The best gift I've given myself is the choice to eliminate debt from my life (9 years left on my mortgage contract but I will shoot for 7) and the simplicity of paying cash for everything and saving for tomorrow. Freedom!

No comments:

Post a Comment