I am a property manager in Little Rock, Arkansas. I enjoy writing about various topics that I think may be helpful to others.
Christmas Isn't About Getting What You Want
It's almost here again—the most wonderful time of the year! It's a time when, for almost two months, we spend all of our time, energy, and money on things that don't really matter for people who don't really need them. We spend gobs of money on toys for our kids who have way too many, buy scented candles just in case that coworker decides to get you something, and find some cheesy gag gift for that family member that you have no idea what to get them.
I don't know about you, but I love spending all my money on gift cards, picture frames, and those body wash sets that will sit untouched in the corner of their bathtub for three-plus years. It's so much fun sitting in traffic for hours to rush to the mall after work for last-minute gifts. But it's Christmas, right? And Christmas is all about giving.
Well, what if I told you that you were doing Christmas wrong? What if I told you that Christmas isn't about Visa gift cards, new phones, or sausage-and-cheese gift boxes? In fact, Christmas isn't about giving gifts just to receive gifts. Christmas is about giving. I mean really giving. It's about magic and miracles and being truly kind to one another—not just giving out of tradition or responsibility. It's about giving to really make a difference and be a blessing to someone.
Hello. My name is Sarah Spradlin. I'm not an expert on Christmas or religion or on anything, really. I'm just a girl who has slowly become very irritated with how the world celebrates Christmas. I have vowed not to make Christmas about me or about making it a competition to see who can give the best gifts. I am also not a Grinch. In fact, I love Christmas. As a little girl, I always felt like Christmas was magic. Anything was possible, and only good things could happen during the holiday. At some point in time, though, Christmas lost its magic. It became more about the chore of buying people gifts than it did about giving, and I mean really giving.
This year, I called my parents up and told them that I do not want to participate in the "normal Christmas." My family is low on money these days, and every year, we all get incredibly stressed out over buying each other gifts because it's something you have to do. I didn't want to do that this year. In fact, this year, I told them that all I want from them is to have a nice Christmas dinner together and to watch some old Christmas movies together.
I told my boyfriend that I did not want him to buy me anything, as long as he promised to drive around and look at Christmas lights and maybe go to a Christmas pageant at our church and drink plenty of hot chocolate. I have also set aside some goals for myself of people and organizations that I would like to help out. So this article is going to give you ideas of ways that you can help out this year. Ways that you can be really kind, instead of just giving because that's what you're supposed to do.
Note: If you have children, please do not cancel Christmas. That is not what I am trying to insinuate. Spoil your kids if you'd like. Buy matching ugly pajamas and stand in line at Toy R Us for hours if that's what you really want to do. I just don't want people to feel burdened each year. Christmas shouldn't be a chore. It should be about helping one another and about spending time with family and friends, not going poor to make sure everyone in your life has something just to have it.
I hope that you like these ideas and maybe find something that sparks your interest. I hope that you can be someone's Christmas miracle this year. Please comment below and let me know if you liked any of these ideas or if you thought of something else. Let's make Christmas magic again.
1. Pay Off School Lunch Debts
Almost every year, I'll be watching the news and hear that someone has randomly paid off all lunch debts for a particular school. How great is that! Think about how many schools are just in your district alone. I can assure you that most, if not all, have some outstanding debt due to nonpayment of meals. Students usually accumulate lunch debt in two ways—they qualify for free lunch but didn’t fill out the required paperwork, or they only qualify for a cheaper lunch but still can’t pay. Sometimes schools will even refuse to feed the child if their debt is large enough. Ridiculous right? While in my opinion, every child should have the right to a provided lunch while at school, it certainly isn't the case.
If you would like to help, simply call a school of your choosing and ask how much their debt is. You can also call the district and get a list of all of the schools. You can always ask to be an anonymous donor if you do not want any attention. This is a good deed that you could do any time of the year but think about how much of a blessing it could be to do during Christmas when many families are so tight on money and unable to afford lunch money!
2. Pay Someone's Rent or Late Fees
Ok, so this one is near and dear to my heart. I am a property manager. Every month I have several residents who are very late on rent. Sometimes even going into the next month. While it is true that sometimes it is due to people just not being responsible and saving their money, sometimes things come up. Maybe it's a loss of a job, a death in the family, or an unexpected expense. A lot of people are just one paycheck away from losing their homes.
So, how can you help? Go to a local apartment complex or maybe go to one that is in a rougher area where people are struggling a little more. Ask to speak to the property manager. Tell them how much you are willing to donate. Maybe you just have $100, and you tell them to put that towards late fees. Maybe you have $300, and you can tell them to give it to whoever they think needs it the most. People can go without Christmas gifts, but everyone needs a home. So this could really be a blessing to someone!
3. Get Supplies for a School
This is another great one. If you are a teacher or know a teacher, you know that they get very little to no help when purchasing supplies. Yes, many teachers will ask parents for a list at the beginning of the year, but that doesn't take into account supplies that will break, new students starting the class at a later time, or maybe a project that the teachers want to do but know that they cannot afford.
Teachers can NEVER have too much paper, pencils, pens, notebooks, markers, etc. You could even purchase after-school care items for a rainy day, such as indoor games, educational movies, and craft supplies. If you don't know what they need, just get the teachers gift cards to Walmart, Hobby Lobby, or a teacher supply store. You could even wrap gifts for the students to open at their Christmas party!
4. Be a Big Tipper
This is an idea that I mean to do every year but end up spending so much on presents that I can't afford to. I do plan on doing it this year, though! This is another idea that you sometimes will see on the news, or maybe you've had it happen to you or one of your waiter friends. As everyone knows, waiters make their living off of tips, and sometimes even if they give the best service of their career, people don't always tip, or if they do, it's not very much.
What I've always wanted to do is have $100 ready to go. In the month of December, as I go out to eat, I will eventually decide who to tip the $100. Perhaps with a Christmas card and an encouraging message. Think of how much that could really help someone during the holidays! That money could be used for bills, school, or maybe gifts for their children. I've heard of people giving as much as $400! Honestly, any tip is appreciated, but I just think it would be great to go above and beyond just to surprise someone and make their holiday a little better!
5. Chip in on Someone's Electricity Bill
If you're like me, you probably LOVE Christmas lights. When I was a kid, I used to love driving around with my parents, looking at all the red, green, and white lights and especially the houses that were decked out with Santa's reindeer and nativity scenes! There was always something so magical about it, and there still is! These days though, you see it less and less.
People are doing away with the Christmas décor, music, and traditions and replacing them with more stress and buying more stuff. I would like to see the magic of Christmas stay alive. So I thought, wouldn't it be great to send a card with some money to your neighborhood "Christmas house." You know, the one that you look forward to seeing every year to see what they've added? You could send them a Thank You card, letting them know how much you appreciate all their work and how much you enjoy their Christmas spirit. Add some money and tell them to put it towards their electricity bill or for more decorations!
6. Pay Off Someone's Layaway
Every year, millions of parents buy items on layaway in hopes that by the time Christmas comes, they will have paid it off. From time to time, on the news, you'll hear about some rich person paying off all of Walmart's items on layaway. I don't have money for that, maybe you do, but you could offer to donate money towards someone's bill or pay off one person's list. Imagine how relieved a parent would be, knowing that the money they have saved for toys could be used for something else!
- Cheap And Easy Ways to Be Kind This Christmas
Christmas is around the corner, and this year I have vowed to focus more on being kind to others. These are ideas that are cheap or free that will hopefully lift people's spirits!
These are just a few ideas of how you can be kind this Christmas. If you liked this article, be on the lookout for my next article, "Cheap and Easy Ways to Be Kind This Christmas." Please comment below and let me know which of these ideas you liked best or any other ideas that you might have.
© 2017 Sarah Spradlin
Kenneth Avery from Hamilton, Alabama on April 18, 2018:
Dear sarah -- I have to say that you have nailed it. You published The Perfect Hub . . .or list of practical and common sense gifts not only for Christmas, but at any time of the year.
I loved it.
Keep up the fine work.
Catherine Giordano from Orlando Florida on October 18, 2017:
I love your suggestions. They reflect the true spirit of Christmas. Be a Secret Santa to a stranger without taking any credit for it. I'm sure your essay will brighten a lot of people's Christmas--for both the givers and the receivers.
RTalloni on October 16, 2017:
Lovely ideas. Finding a balance is something everyone can do in their own situations, but discussing it like this is the motivation many need. Churches and ministries for the poor/abused/ill often have a list of needy people. Giving through them offers a protection for givers from unknown persons which is important, but we should make sure it is an established ministry with a sound record so we can be sure our giving is not in vain.
Glenn Stok from Long Island, NY on October 16, 2017:
What an interesting list of ideas Sarah! This is definitely a great alternative to regular gift giving. Very creative!
Sarah Spradlin (author) from Little Rock, Arkansas on October 13, 2017:
Thank you for your comment Dora! They certainly are ideas you can use all year round! :)
Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on October 12, 2017:
These are good tips for kindness year round, but I know there are many who will appreciate these gestures especially at Christmas. Really good suggestions!