6 ways to do Christmas for the neighbors

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Posted: Monday, November 18, 2013 6:59 am | Updated: 5:39 pm, Fri Nov 22, 2013.

While the Christmas holiday can bring cheer and added love to our families, it can also be a time of stress. Sometimes this stress can come from the expectations we place on ourselves regarding giving gifts to our neighbors. These people are friends and we want to show our affection. But in many areas the traditional neighbor gifts have gotten out of hand and, instead of bringing the holiday spirit into homes, are reasons for stress and lost expectations.

Following are ways to show love toward neighbors while still ensuring our priorities toward our families are paramount during the holiday season.

Large or small?

A few months after moving into a new neighborhood, some friends of mine were surprised to receive a large holiday fruit basket from their neighbor. They worried what the holiday gift-giving status was in their new area and the impact it would have on their budget. But their worries were needless.

Just because someone gives a large gift doesn’t mean you have to reciprocate with something of similar size or value. True friends don’t measure friendship by the size and quantity of gifts. Before the holiday starts, set a budget for neighbor and friend Christmas gifts and refuse to let expensive received gifts tempt you to raise it.

If you are an individual who shows love by giving large, expensive gifts to your neighbors, consider holding back if their budgets don’t match your own. Remember the reason you are giving is to show affection, not because you want others to feel uncomfortable due to their inability to reciprocate in a similar manner.

Homemade or store-bought?

While homemade gifts can be more personal, they can also take a lot of time to make. If you enjoy making crafts with your family, then go ahead with your homemade gift plans. Family time spent creating for others can be a great bonding experience. If, on the other hand, you only make such gifts because you think it is expected, remove this added stress from your holiday plans and give something that used to have a price tag on it. Remember, Christmas is an opportunity to focus on love and joy, not a time to attempt to live up to perceived expectations.

A simple card

A simple Christmas card to your neighbors, with a few sentences telling of your gratitude, can be one of the most endearing gifts you give. Maybe you don’t enjoy crafting or perhaps your budget can’t stretch beyond family. Many people feel the lack of love and appreciation in their lives, especially during the Christmas season. Your personalized note, while not costing much in money, may be the most priceless thing your friends receive this Christmas. Don’t underestimate the power of written words of love.

Give to others instead

Let your neighbors know that, while you appreciate their holiday gifts, this year you’ll be using the money you would spend on them and giving it to another cause. Give your neighbor holiday gift fund to your local food pantry, Sub for Santa, Toys for Tots, or other charities that will help needy families enjoy Christmas. Not only is this method easier than delivering gifts to everyone, but you’ll feel good knowing your money went toward helping the needy, as opposed to filling countertops with sugary treats.

Shop for next year

The days and weeks following the holidays are when stores put their Christmas merchandise on clearance. Consider purchasing items that can be stored for next year. Often, a simple Christmas ornament can be a great neighbor gift. Planning for next year’s holiday may seem like the last thing you want to do after Christmas. But 365 days from now you’ll thank yourself for removing the neighbor-gift stress the year before.

No gifts

Accept any gifts your neighbors give you. But if your budget is currently feeling the recession, you’re going through a difficult time, or time is at a premium, don’t feel obligated to give a present in return. A gracious “thank you” can suffice. While you may worry about offending some, remember true friends will love you whether or not you gave them a physical reminder of your relationship. They will respect your priorities of putting family first.

Christmas is a time for enjoying family and friends. Make sure your gifts help you achieve this ultimate goal.

© 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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