Weekly Wellness: Putting A Price Tag on Christmas


Maria McGinnis

Illustration by Alyssa Maziarz

The holiday season is finally upon us. For some people it’s their favorite time of year — myself included. The holidays can be hard for people for a number of reasons. Specifically when it comes to the stress that surrounds gift giving, the holidays aren’t always merry, but it doesn’t need to be that way. 

For those who celebrate Christmas, it feels like for our entire lives we’ve been faced with images of what a “perfect Christmas” looks like and part of that image almost always includes a beautifully decorated tree with a sea of gifts underneath. Once November begins and we inch closer to Black Friday and Cyber Monday, at every turn we see nothing but ads to “buy this” and “buy that,” and it can be overwhelming. I always feel this sense of anxiety, because I worry that if I don’t hurry up and take advantage of this deal then I’ll miss it. Or maybe I should wait because what if there’s a better deal tomorrow? The amount of time I’ve spent stressing over the best way to spend my money for the holidays is absurd. 

Part of that is because I like to make sure that when I spend money I do it smartly. I like to save money, honestly who doesn’t, and that leads me to spend a lot of time frantically clicking through sales to make sure I’m making the best decision. I know I’m not the only one who feels this way. That’s really the whole goal of all of these sales from the perspective of the retailer — flood the consumer with deals, they’ll most likely spend more money. This approach usually works pretty well. Recall all the photos and videos from years past of people stampeding malls to get to the hottest deal first. Is that really necessary? 

I love giving gifts for the holidays. The aesthetic of gift wrapping and perfectly color coordinating bows and ribbons with the paper is something I really love to do, and I love giving something meaningful and seeing the person receiving the gift light up when they open it. But with that said, I’ve never really been one to approach holiday gifting as just needing to fill space under the tree. I don’t like my holidays to feel routine and generic. I don’t celebrate Christmas as a religious person, but based on how I celebrate the holidays, it’s really not about how much is under the tree or how much money was spent, and the COVID-19 pandemic has really solidified that. 

On Black Friday this year, shoppers spent $9.8 billion collectively and a record $10.8 billion on Cyber Monday, according to Adobe Analytics, making it the biggest U.S. e-commerce day to date.

With the pandemic bringing on unexpected expenses and resulting in some people losing their jobs, I wasn’t expecting such a big turnout this year. At the same time, because of the pandemic most people are shopping online instead of risking exposure at brick and mortar stores, so that could explain the record spending on Cyber Monday. 

Regardless of the “why,” that is still a significant amount of money, and I think it confirms the idea that we may spend too much time focusing on how much we buy and spend because holiday gift giving stigma leads us to believe that is what’s most important. For some people, their love language is receiving (or giving) gifts, and that’s totally OK. This isn’t to bash anyone for their specific way of feeling and expressing appreciation. I, however, think it’s more important to focus on what we’re buying for people. 

I mentioned the COVID-19 pandemic has really solidified that idea for me. I think everyone has grieved something this year whether that be a cancelled event, a job, nights out with friends or even a loved one. I think that feeling of shared grief has — or at least has the ability to — open people’s eyes to see the true importance of being thankful for what they have. It almost feels cliché to talk about Christmas that way, because I think we’ve been hearing that since we were children, but I feel everyone needs a reminder each year. 

I think it’s important to note you can’t put a price tag on love and affection. Just because you spent $200 on Christmas gifts for someone doesn’t mean you love them more than the person who spent $10. It’s better to consider the fact that you simply thought of a person — whether for a gift or just to say “Happy Holidays” — shows you love and care. 

Personally, this year for Christmas I decided to get everyone on my list one special thing and support small businesses as much as possible. Maybe it’s a nice soy blend, hand-poured candle from a local small business or an Etsy shop, or maybe it’s a print of a family photo in a nice frame. Whatever it is, I want it to have meaning and thought behind it, and I’m avoiding the anxious rush to buy, buy, buy. 

Refrain from jumping on the hamster wheel of consumerism this holiday season and check off the people on your gift list with more intention. That’s my parting advice for my Weekly Wellness blogs this semester. It’s one of the oldest sayings in the book, but money really can’t buy happiness, and it can’t buy your loved ones either. 

Happy holidays. Xoxo