Why are the holidays so darn stressful?
You'd think that having a few days off, spending time with family and friends, and stuffing yourself full of food and drink would be awesome, right? 🙂
It is and it isn't.
It isn't that awesome because of the stress surrounding the holidays. These are stresses you don't get other times of the year — mainly, the gifts.
Gifts can get expensive and you never want to leave someone out.
If you are stressed about the cost of the holidays, I have a little hack you can try this year.
Switch from one-to-one gift giving to a Secret Santa style gifting tradition.
I learned this tip from a friend who comes from a huge family. He has five sets of aunts and uncles and his wife has two sets of aunts and uncles. Then you have cousins, their kids, … you get the picture. It's a lot of gifts.
For years, they got everyone gifts. Even if you limited them to $50 a gift, you were still talking over a thousand dollars in gifts!
But back then, they were dual income, no kids. Spending that much wasn't a big deal.
Then my friend had a baby, realized this enormous budget line item that only popped up once a year, and the gears started turning. What could he do? Even if they transitioned to one gift per pair it was still over five hundred dollars a year in gifts. You can buy a lot of diapers with that money!
That's when he borrowed something from his workplace… he floated the idea of a Secret Santa to his family. They loved it.
Why a Secret Santa Works
You capture all of the gift giving feeling at a fraction of the stress and cost. Thinking about what to buy a billion different people is stressful. Thinking about what to buy one person is less stressful.
There's a bit of mystery, since you don't know who has you, and mysteries are fun. Who do you have as your Secret Santa? Who do you think has you? It's a mystery that will last a few weeks and those are always fun.
It doesn't take away anything from the gift giving event itself. Part of the fun of gifts is in the anticipation. With a Secret Santa, you get the anticipation of the mystery but then you also have an “event” during your gathering. People give gifts, there's the excitement of learning who has you plus what you actually received.
A $100 gift is better than five $20 gifts. The universe of awesome $20 gifts is small. The universe of awesome $100 gifts is much bigger. Wouldn't you rather get one $100 gift, purchased by someone who was focused on buying just one $100 gift and not five $20 gifts? 🙂
How to Have a Successful Secret Santa
Secret Santa is easy and has just a handful of “rules.”
- Find out everyone involved and create a pool of names to draw from or assign them yourself.
- Tell everyone who they are Secret Santa to (i.e. who they have to buy a gift for).
- Set a gift dollar amount limit.
- Pick a date to give out gifts.
If not everyone will be in the same place for the drawing, you can always use online generators (I found this one but I've never used it) to facilitate the selection process.
Boom – that's it! There's nothing more to it.
How to Make the Transition
If I've convinced you of how easy it is to run and why it works well, you might be worried about the transition. Don't be.
It's easy – just start asking your friends/family if they'd be open to trying a Secret Santa this year, instead of the free-for-all of buying gifts for everyone? If there's some hesitation, suggest that they just give it a test run this year? You can bring up the reasons above but chances are you won't.
I've asked my friends, several of which have done this with their adult age cousins, and not only has no one ever been offended but they've had a 100% success rate. Several told me it's helped them get closer to their cousins, who live across the country, because they have to learn about their hobbies, likes, and dislikes to buy a better gift.
Give it a whirl!