By Megan Poore

Although we are in the thick of the holiday shopping frenzy, it’s not too late to slow down and think about how, where and when we will spend our money and time this holiday season.  The pressure is on to find the best deals on the “perfect” gifts. Each year it seems that our list to buy for grows. I’m here to say it’s okay to take a little pressure off. Here are some ideas to reduce your gift-giving anxiety and enjoy your holiday season.

Let’s start with some gift-giving myths that I hear this time of year.

Spend the same amount on each person on your list

Many of us succumb to this to avoid the appearance of favoritism. We tell ourselves that if the dollar amount is equal, then all is fair. This could lead to spending unnecessarily or searching fruitlessly to make up a perceived gap.  It reinforces the idea that gift giving is all about the money, when most of us long for gift giving and receiving to be more meaningful.  You have our permission to stop comparing the amount that was spent and instead consider how the gift recipient will appreciate your thoughtfulness.

More is better

It’s so easy to buy for our kids and grandkids – they like everything! We can’t imagine that opening three gifts is as exciting as opening ten.   But three meaningful gifts will yield as much satisfaction and, more importantly, lead to a greater sense of gratitude. Most kids are overwhelmed when faced with a half dozen or more new toys and games and can quickly become numb to the joy of receiving a gift.

It is a cop out to give gift certificates

Many studies have shown that adults derive more value from experiences than stuff.  The same is true for the folks on your Christmas list.  While I am not advocating that you buy gift cards for everyone on your list, they can be thoughtful opportunities for building experiences.  Last year I was able to buy gift cards to a local art place and a coffee shop for my tween.  She invited some friends a few weeks later to create art projects and drink some hot cocoa.  The frame she painted reminds her of a time when she felt some early independence and was able to express creativity with friends.  For adults, a gift certificate to a favorite restaurant, a hot-air balloon ride, or a sky-diving experience can create a memory that will last a lifetime.

To keep the holiday preparations in perspective, maybe it makes sense to gather the family and talk about all the different ways that your family celebrates the holiday season.  You may find that some items on your list aren’t as important as you thought they were. The holiday season is a great time to reinforce the message that gift giving is about the love and thought behind the gift, not the dollar figure.