This is a guest article by Daniel. If you are interested in contributing to Debt RoundUp, please follow our guidelines. This is a long post folks, so sit back and enjoy.
The biggest and most outdated social convention we all face and dread is not a gawkily sung ‘Happy Birthday’ to the new guy at the office, nor is it having dinner with your spouse’s parents.
It’s actually something far more awkward; the commonly feared convention of gift giving. Over the years gift giving has evolved into a social monstrosity that’s less about giving gifts and more about social status. Perhaps this can be partly attributed to how global logistics have changed as consumers we can now obtain anything we want via the internet and we expect delivery within a few days of placing an order. This in turn feeds consumer needs for near instant gratification and better quality products for less.
Sequentially, this globally available machine now fuels the age-old convention of gift giving, bringing it to an all new level; gifts are no longer cheaply bought, quizzical or silly items that we’d normally pick up for a few dollars – instead we go online to hunt for bargains, which are considerably less bargain-like and more expensive when compared to their whimsical gas-station bought equivalents.
I have no statistics pertaining to this, but let me put it to you this way: I’m sure we all know somebody where we work or within our immediate group of friends, that excels at gift-giving just for the sake of gaining social approval, regardless of their affiliation to parties involved.
Whether it’s an extrinsic desire that compels someone to bestow you with a gift or the forced alternative, perhaps there are several other deep-rooted intrinsic psychological issues involved with gift giving that can sculpt a rational individual into the frenzied purchasing instrument of consumerism; with the burning need to achieve social acceptance above all else. One thing remains clear though, it’s not the smartest thing to do financially – especially if the gift is not reciprocated.
Yet, the social convention attached to this enigmatic machine, unequivocally dictates that the gift must be reciprocated; failure to conform to this can result in the recipient being social exiled and shunned for being fiscally stiff – what happened to giving a gift for the sheer joy of it?
Seemingly though, many of us would be happier dipping into our income for a ‘cheap’ gift than face a guilty (read needlessly guilty) conscience for a couple of days.
An outdated social convention
In a time where we are beginning to hold ourselves accountable for our financial lifestyle and habits, should we not start by re-programming the venerable principles of gift giving? Whilst there are many unwritten rules (which accounts for a lot of the issues surrounding gift giving) about gifting people, the biggest issue is that, there are no written rules. By clearly stating the amounts that we are (or are not) willing to spend per person, could mean that we all avoid the minimal (albeit cumulative) loss of money over time to gift giving.
But should it be like this, should we have written rules for giving out gifts and presents?
Arguably yes; we should all have written budgets or financial plans for our spending that enable us to allocate some funds towards gift giving, if you’re that way inclined, but mostly for the sake of preserving your income. If your well-being doesn’t command the respect of your immediate circles, then it’s time to start drawing new ones. As your only means to financial stability each month, your income should be universally recognized by your friends as your one and only financial lifeline.
Therefore, real friends will recognize your reasons for abstaining from the gift giving process; high living costs, utilities, medical care and vehicle maintenance costs are bigger contenders for your cash than a gift for a colleague at work, which is understandable – imagine breaking down and not having something in place, like RAC breakdown cover, would you have enough additional cash left over to bail yourself out if you’re a avid gift giver?
When it’s OK to give
I admit it (and in case it’s not obvious); I’m rather cynical when it comes to the notion of gift-giving or sending out greetings cards – guilty as charged. Granted, my cynicism is founded in wanting to save money wherever possible – penny pinching does add up over time! This doesn’t however; mean that I’d avoid important occasions where a gift is socially appropriate. Birthdays and Holidays are good occasions where gifting a loved one is warranted and not a precursor of some incongruous social conventionality – remember; spend money on those you love, not on those that you want to love you.
A great alternative to spending money on gifts is to recycle old gifts that were previously gifted to you. You can cry blasphemy all you want, but recycling gifts is arguably more socially acceptable and practiced, than imposing stringent gift-giving protocols unto others. Consider this; 84% of adults receive unwanted items as gifts during holiday periods. Truly, this is an undeniable testament to the power of gift-giving and the perceived obligation we still hold onto; we must gift others or face rejection – we still do this knowingly, regardless of the circumstances that we may find ourselves in afterwards too and regardless of how times and attitudes have changed over the past 4 years.
When it’s not OK
Office politics and indeed the etiquette involved in managing our relationships can be brutal on our finances – if we let them. If you don’t know someone well enough to give them a gift or you haven’t worked somewhere long enough, then you don’t need to start shelling out money to appease your immediate, new-found circles and maybe one or two people will hold a temporary grudge because you didn’t commit – so what? It’s your money in the end. The majority of people who exercise good common sense will see it your way though.
If you do feel like you’re being pressured into contributing towards gifts for people you barely know or have acquaintance with, then it’s time to make a stand and clearly state that you don’t have bountiful pockets capable of performing financial miracles.
That Warm, Fuzzy Feeling
Gift-giving has a dangerous allure for those of us that enjoy the warm, fuzzy feelings that being generous gives back to us. Admittedly, it does feel good to watch someone unwrap or find a gift they weren’t expecting – they are full of questions, curiosity and bewilderment, that rivals even the greatest of game shows on TV. Enjoy this feeling too much however, and you’ll find yourself spending money on less meaningful occasions, just for the sake of giving out presents – this is something that will leave you short financially in the long run.
Put Your Foot Down
Knowing when you should and shouldn’t be giving out gifts is crucial to your personal development; financially and mentally – having the ability to be strong (read stubborn) and say no from time to time are fundamental charismatic properties, which we all sometimes lack, but so desperately need. This stubbornness is completely transferable too and will translate into stern financial discipline as we grow up. Knowing that it’s actually OK to say no every now and then will certainly bode well for those of you who desire a balanced social and working life.
What do you think: has the culture of gift-giving gone too far or should we always be expected to pitch in for colleagues and acquaintances in spite of any prior affiliation we have with them?
Author Bio: Daniel is a writer for a U.K based lender that’s committed to providing consumers with more information regarding payday loans and how they work.
Editor’s Note: There are many times when I don’t feel right about giving a gift. I do not like being guilted into gift giving, especially if it is an office pool gift. I only give gifts to people that I love and after I have given it some thought. I would rather give experiences, not tangibles.
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