When my sister-in-law asks for my kids’ Christmas wish lists, I sigh. I look around our living room and I see piles of toys that were once loved, but have since been forgotten. The kids don’t want to pick up their toys and put them away. And they are always whining for the newest and greatest toy that the neighbor has and they want. Desperately.
My sisters and I love to buy each other gifts. But around the holidays, there’s a mad dash to find a thoughtful, useful and personal gift when I simply don’t have the desire or energy to shop. I would rather be with my sisters than shopping for my sisters.
This Christmas I am considering a different approach to gift giving. Instead of using our money to buy, buy, buy, we could use our money that we allocated for our holiday gifts by making a donation to our favorite charities through the Combined Federal Campaign or CFC.
The CFC is the world’s largest annual workplace charity campaign and it is available to all federal employees, including service members. The CFC offers a convenient way to make a donation to your favorite charity through direct withdrawal from your paycheck. You can do a small amount every pay period or a one-time donation.
Haven’t heard about the CFC at your military installation?
You can connect with your CFC campaign here. The 2015 CFC solicitation period ends December 15.
Are you thinking about scaling down your Christmas budget this year? Are you considering a Christmas that is more about giving to others and less about giving gifts?
Here are 25 reasons why I’m considering giving gifts that give back this holiday season.
- I don’t want the Black Friday craziness. The day after Thanksgiving I don’t want to be battling for an electronic device in a big box store. I want to be at home, listening to holiday music and spending time with my husband.
- Giving is a teaching opportunity. When we donate money to charities through the CFC, it’s a teaching opportunity for our children. We can talk to them about children who have been diagnosed with a life-threatening medical conditions and what a blessing their health is. We can watch videos on Make-A-Wish’s website so that the girls can see how their donation (instead of gifts) helps a child have their wish granted. Donating to charities, like Make-A-Wish is a teaching opportunity for gratitude and empathy.
- Giving back helps me put my life in perspective. I like to tell myself that my children are ungrateful and I am not. But if I really listen to what I complain about (I want a bigger house, a new purse and top-of-the-line tablet), I find that I’m losing perspective on what’s important in life. If I’m not careful I focus on things instead of people. Making the decision to give a donation instead of buying a gift helps me remember that things won’t lead to my happiness.
- Wrapping paper and I don’t get along. I really, really don’t like wrapping presents. It’s not my thing.
- Buying less leads to a greener Christmas. The majority of the toys we buy our children aren’t manufactured in the United States. By buying less and trying to buy a few locally made items, we can help reduce our carbon footprint this holiday season.
- This gift won’t break, tear or need batteries. Aren’t we all disappointed when a toy doesn’t last more than few months? When we give the gift of giving back through the CFC, we know that this gift won’t be tossed in the trash. This gift will be making a difference in someone’s life.
- We don’t need anything and others do. We have life’s necessities and more than a few luxuries. Instead of getting more stuff, we can give more to others who need it more than we do.
- Making donations through the CFC empower us when we feel powerless. When I watch the news, my heart breaks. I see children who need help. I see women who need help. And I feel powerless to help. I want to be right there in Nebraska after a tornado serving food to families who lost their homes. But I can’t; instead I make a donation to the American Red Cross. Supporting organizations that help people after natural disasters helps me not feel powerless.
- There are no shipping costs. I like to shop online so I spend a small fortune on shipping fees to get presents to my family during the holiday season. This year, when I make donation to the CFC instead, I won’t waste money on shipping fees.
- My donation is a thank you gift. Thank you USO for offering my family a place to relax and recharge when our flight was canceled.
- We can honor our family members who we miss this holiday season. Before he died, my grandfather, a Korean veteran, was able to take an Honor Flight to Washington, D.C. He was very grateful for this experience. This year, when I’m missing him and remembering the box of chocolates I used to give him every Christmas, I can instead make a donation to Honor Flight through the CFC.
- One donation gives back all year. When you make a donation to an organization like Serve Our Willing Warriors, you know that your donation is helping ill and injured service members and their families throughout the year. It’s a gift that goes beyond December 25.
- A donation is a one-size-fits-all gift. I don’t have to worry about sister-in-law returning this gift. I don’t have to worry about nephew already having this gift.
- My gift can help a community close to my heart – veterans. Here are 21 military and veteran charities that I highly recommend.
- Less stuff means less stress at PCS time.We know we are going to move again. It’s part of being a military family. When the time comes to move, I can get pretty stressed out with all the stuff we have and trying to make it fit in the new house. With less stuff, my stress levels aren’t as high when I unpack after a PCS.
- Gifts that give back reduce my guilt. I would love to volunteer with a few organizations that I really love, but right now, I don’t have that time. (I’m looking forward to doing that when I retired.) Since I can’t give my time, I can give my money and stop feeling guilty about not volunteering.
- These gifts aren’t hard to find. When I was a child, I wanted a Cabbage Patch doll like every other 5-year-old in the early 80s. But unlike every other kid, I didn’t get one. They were sold out everywhere.
- Gifts that give are the perfect gifts for that person who has everything. You know that person (cough my husband, cough) who has everything and you still feel obligated to give them a gift. Skip the jelly of the month club membership and make a donation through the CFC instead.
- I could be done with my holiday shopping today. I’m always annoyed when I see a friend post on Facebook on October 15 “already done with my holiday shopping, now I can concentrate on what really matter this holiday season.” Meanwhile, I don’t even start thinking about the holidays until after Thanksgiving dinner. With a few clicks on the CFC website, I could be done with my holiday shopping. It’s so tempting.
- There’s not a temptation to overspend. Every year, I make a holiday gift budget and I vow to stick to it. Then I’m shopping and I get excited about everything I see. My budget goes out the window. When I pledge donations through the CFC, I stick to my budget.
- No more waiting in lines. Every December I waste a lot of time standing in line. Standing in line at the store. Standing in line to take a photo of my kids with Santa. Standing in line at the post office.
- Take the competition out of Christmas. Even when my husband and I pledge to not buy each other gifts, I get sucked into the holiday competitive spirit. I want to give him some amazing gift to show how much I love him when in reality his love is a gift to me.
- Gifts that give back help my military family. We know that for many military families this time of year isn’t the happiest time of year. Organizations like Trees for Troops help military families by providing free fresh Christmas trees to service members and their families. Another option is Snowball Express. This charity provides “hope and new happy memories to the children of military fallen heroes who have died while on active duty since 9/11.”
- These gifts help us to never forget. Through the charity, Wreaths Across America, we placed wreaths at the tombstones at Arlington National Cemetery 3 years ago. This event was the perfect opportunity to talk our children about remembering and honoring those who came before us.
- I want to celebrate a meaningful Christmas filled with experiences, not gifts. When we talk about past Christmases, my kids never remember the toys they unwrapped. Here’s what they remember:
- Putting out reindeer food on Christmas Eve
- Going to the Nutcracker ballet with their cousins
- Watching The Sound of Music while snuggled under blankets
- Sledding with their friends at Lake Tahoe
This year, I hope that I can give my children a meaningful Christmas once again. I hope this Christmas will be a time of reflection about what we have instead of what we think we need.