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Share creative ideas to assist people of all ages with tips to save money and improve their lifestyle!

By Nancy and Dawn Clement

December 3, 2009 (San Diego’s East County) – Ready or not – the holiday gift-giving season is here!  Our gifts to you are ideas and tips to help you spend less money and feel more relaxed and peaceful during this special time of year. It is important to remember why we are celebrating, and to not be caught up in a whirlwind of consumerism.


Americans are projected to spend about $417 per person for the holidays this year (which is actually down 50% from just two years ago). People like to give gifts to loved ones – it makes them feel good – but during these hard economic times, many families do not have extra money for to budget for gifting. Rather than begin the New Year in debt, why not be more creative and spend a little more time thinking about the meaning of your gifts?

The practice of exchanging gifts during a winter celebration dates back to the Roman era. During the Saturnalia, they would have a feast and exchange good-luck gifts called Stenae (lucky fruits). In the 4th century AD, Christianity adopted the Saturnalia festival hoping to take the pagan masses in with it, and named December 25 “Christmas” in honor of Christ. The tradition of giving elaborate Christmas gifts is relatively new (it took hold in the late 1800's).


Chanukah is the Jewish holiday that commemorates the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem in 165 BC after it was desecrated during Syrian occupation. Kwanzaa is an African American holiday created in 1966 by Ron Everett, the director of the Black Studies department at California State University in Long Beach. Due to their close proximity to Christmas, these holidays are fast becoming gift-giving holidays as well. Many Jewish families have adopted the tradition of giving small gifts to their children to alleviate jealousy of non-Jewish friends who celebrate Christmas. Since Hanukkah lasts for eight days, it is natural to give eight gifts – one on each night. The gifts become more expensive as the holiday progresses, so you want to start out small or it gets expensive fast.


Gifts exchanged during Kwanzaa are supposed to be educational or creative in nature, and may have some symbolic relevance to Kwanzaa. Traditionally, Kwanzaa gift giving takes place on the last day of the Kwanzaa celebration (January 1).

Some ideas to rescue your budget: lower your expectations, spend less, pare down your holiday gift-giving list, shop at swap meets or thrift stores, and even re-gift items. Do you have unused, new items gathering dust…maybe someone would be thrilled to receive it as a gift. What skills do you have? Can you create a hand-made craft? What are you good at? Do you have other skills you can offer? Are you a skilled organizer, a great baker, can you provide a service to someone? A gift certificate of your own might be the ticket!

With older relatives or friends – the greatest gift may be your time. Offer to help with correspondence, tasks around the home, transportation to a doctor’s appointment or maybe just an evening of conversation and good company that would be appreciated.

Offer to baby sit for a busy parent – write a letter to someone special to share what special memories you have enjoyed and how much you appreciate him or her. The possibilities are endless.

Make your gifts more meaningful! For Chanukkah, give the gift of light – lamps and candles are perfect. For Kwanzaa, give the gift of history – a beautifully decorated family tree, a geneology, a coffee table book of Africa. For Christmas, give the gift of joy – tickets to a play, a basket of out-of-season fruit, a gift certificate for maid service. Most of all, remember that there is no “rule” that says your gifts have to be expensive. In fact, sometimes the most meaningful gifts of all cost nothing!

Nancy Clement is an east county Realtor®, mortgage broker and freelance writer and can be reached at 619-563-4184 or Dawn Clement is a stay-at-home mother of three, a freelance writer, and creative shopper.


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