(noun, etymology Dutch from ‘boedel’: estate, possession, inheritance, stock.). 1. Crowd, pack, lot, as in ‘the whole boodle.’ 2. a. Counterfeit money b. Money acquired or spent illegally or improperly, particularly when used in bribery for political purposes. 3. Slang for money in general.

Holiday Gifts

Posted on: Dec. 10, 2009  |  By: Ronnie Kahn  |  Category: General

The holidays are upon us. Are they weighing as heavily on your shoulders as they are on mine? On the one hand it’s supposed to be a time for family and friends to congregate and make merry. On the other, it is a time to give a “gift” back to our economy by spending money. Money a lot of us just don’t have this year.

While money and holidays should be joyous, we all know of those who become quite depressed during the holidays or spend more time than they want to deciding to whom and what to give.

In past years, a lot of my clients spent a significant amount on gifts. This year, many are looking for ways to reign in spending but are having a hard time making adjustments. “Susan,” for one, is a generous soul and big spender on holiday gifts. Her hubby is the main breadwinner, and she has a small business as a sculptor. When I suggested that her friends and relatives might enjoy getting her artwork given as gifts, she laughed and said she would never subject her loved ones to pieces they might not even like. But how bad could her stuff be, I wondered? Even the weirdest sculpture could be turned into a lamp or a unique garden gnome. And at least the gifts would be unique and personal and not put Susan in the red.

Let’s look at some of our various social messages around gifts.  You want to buy that something special to—what? —capture a place in a person’s heart? You want your gift to be different than the rest. You want to spend enough so that you don’t seem cheap. You have to buy something since you know the person you’re buying for will. Etc., etc.

What would happen if we changed the social message this year? What if we thought, not just of what the receiver of our gift will think, but of what we all should be thinking?  Most of us are experiencing economic woes, or are close to others who are suffering. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could communicate the idea with a gift that our world is not just a dog-eat-dog, “every man for himself” dystopia?

The bigfooted-ness of our carbon footprint in the US is much in the news these days, thanks to the climate change summit in Copenhagen. My state, California, for example, pumps thousands, yes thousands, of tons of pollutants into the air each year. So what? So what if, in our holiday gift-giving this year:

  • We support our local community and keep the massive, carbon-spewing gift distribution chain in check by buying locally rather than buying products shipped across the globe?
  • We spread the word about a friend or vendor that has a truly unique product, giving someone we know a gift certificate for their service or product?
  • We give a visit to a local massage therapist or a session with a local personal trainer to someone who would never put money toward this type of “luxury”?

In these ways, we would be connecting two people (or groups) we know and care about, keeping it local, and giving back to the planet that gives us so much.

Someone my wife and I know sent out CFL bulbs this year with their holiday cards. Another husband and wife, who had no budget for gifts one year, wrote wishes for each other on little cards made of wrapping paper and decorated their tree with them. On Christmas morning, each took turns opening and reading their spouses wishes for them, which included, “vibrant health and continued sexiness in the new year” and “a slew of new socks once our ship comes in.”

Oh, and just in case you don’t have enough people on your gift list this year, I heard on NPR about a website this morning (December 9) devoted to online begging, which many people find less humiliating than panhandling:

http://www.begslist.org

However you do it, there are so many creative ways to give. So cue that yet-to-be-composed (any out of work composers out there who’d like a piece of this pie?) Boodle theme music and remember–we are all in this together.

4 Comments

  • Shirley says:

    Often, for Christmas, I ask my closest friends and family to give me the gift of not giving me anything. I don’t mean to be a scrooge, but this kind of frees me up to give if I find something special for them and not give if I don’t. I hate the feeling of being obligated to give. I remember for a few years, my family “re-gifted” a hideous orange and yellow ceramic hot dog tray as a joke. Getting it meant you’d be obliged to pawn it off on soemone else next year. The laughter that came at the unwrapping was the real gift.

  • Ever since I heard the Tom Lehrer song “A Christmas Carol” on his album “An Evening Wasted with Tom Lehrer”, I’m amazed at how much consumer insanity has taken over what is to be a sacred and blessed holiday to celebrate the life of one who preached about peace, moderation, and restraint. (For the curious, it’s available at http://www.stlyrics.com/songs/t/tomlehrer3903/achristmascarol185484.html )

    If we took half of what was spent on excess (food, drink, travel, gifts, and more) and shifted it to charitable needs, what a difference it could make in the world. Of course, the economy might suffer because merchants have come to expect…no, rely on…the excessive spending.

    What a sad cycle of misguided priorities.

  • J. McHale says:

    A friend commented to me earlier this year that she was not participating in the recession. As a financial/life planner, I loved that. As well, I do not participate in Christmas. By that I mean, I do not buy (or give) presents to anyone. I reject the commercialization of the holiday, and I don’t like the cultural pressure it creates– one could argue especially on the less “fortunate.” I find my non-participation liberating. I’ve talked my family into it too. I love to be with my loved ones around the holidays, cooking, playing games, walking outside– just hanging out, and to me, that is a gift. I feel that I don’t need a cultural mandate of when to give… I give charitably year round, and at any time of year, if I see a perfect something for someone, I will purchase it for a reason that has nothing to do with an occasion. Also, I usually do not like receiving gifts, because I don’t like accumulating things I do not need, and I hate waste. What do I do with something I do not need…?

    See also, storyofstuff.com

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