Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 18 September 2019

Spend time rather than money on loved ones

Nima Abu Wardeh talks about taking a more frugal approach to gift giving during the festive period.
Illustration by Gary Clement for The National
Illustration by Gary Clement for The National
We're headed for the season of giving, making resolutions and sharing.

It's a magical time of year when people come together to celebrate with their loved ones, deliberate over what they want from life and promise they'll commemorate these special moments and work on living in a way that's in keeping with their priorities and beliefs.

All this is usually accompanied by an intensified spending frenzy over the last month of the year, not only because we feel compelled to show our love through things we buy, but also because the cost of coming together, to bring in the new year for example, at a venue, is much inflated.

So let's get this straight: you're celebrating a temporary freedom from work - there's a national holiday marking the start of the new year, plus school's out and many of those who can take leave - by increasing your bondage to your job and current life, while also promising yourself that things will change.

How so? If you're spending your way into additional financial commitment and limitations, then how will you free yourself up to pursue your best life and spend more time on the things that are important to you? It just won't happen - unless your idea of "best life" is more hours on the hamster wheel that is work, paying bills, spending, working more to cover expenditure, paying bills and so on.

So how about breaking free from this tradition and trying your hand at creating a new set for yourself and your loved ones?

It means spending time, not money. Sharing things that you make, not buy. And committing to change.

So in the spirit of all this, here are some ideas:

Don't throw out greetings cards - enjoy them, and then when it's time, cut out every bit you can reuse. I cut out images, words and any glitzy glittery bits. I keep them in an art box and then use the various bits, along with other embellishments and bits and bobs to make personalised cards - it's a great group activity and children love it. Plus you have spent the most precious thing doing this: your time. And you have created a wonderful memory with whomever you make them alongside. I'm sure the recipient will love yours for what it is: a unique, very personal gift.

This works for any sort of occasion that a card is appropriate for.

Next up, instead of playing the games of the retail industry, how about looking around your home and among your belongings to make a special something? A dear friend of mine loved a necklace I was wearing when I last saw her. I am sending it to her with a note. I wouldn't be able to find another even if I wanted to keep mine and buy her one - but I think it's even more special for her to have mine as we only see each other once a year. It's a keepsake already loaded with memories.

Then why not make a gift? I'm going to make a display of a rock collection that a certain little someone in my life loves to collect.

The rocks are found on various camping trips and other adventures.

I'll frame them and have a note on the back that says where we were and date it along with a note about something that happened, or people we were with. Imagine finding a diary that a decades-younger-you wrote - it would bring memories flooding back that had all but disappeared.

Think of this as a visual diary, edgy, personal, and one that will last.

So, before you hit the shops with your plastic, hold off, walk around your home, rummage, reuse and recycle.

What does this say about you? It says that you care. You care about the person you're gifting - enough to spend your most valuable and finite assets: your time and energy.

You care about the world and the environment not to take the easy option and consume petrol, time on the road, raising your stress levels - even if slightly - parking, walking, looking for and then buying items that the person you're gifting might not even want, like or use.

And you care about yourself: you are taking time out of your hamster wheel default mode of living, you're reining in your spending, and releasing your creative side and letting it reign supreme.

Nima Abu Wardeh is the founder of the personal finance website www.cashy.me. You can contact her at nima@cashy.me

Updated: December 13, 2013 04:00 AM

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