During the holiday season, it’s easy to get caught up in the frenzy of consumerism. Every where I look I’m bombarded with ads for cool gadgets, special holiday sale pricing, tantalizing offers of free shipping and extra freebies, and a persistent message to buy, buy, buy.
In Canada, my home for the last 12 years, the holiday season starts near Halloween. We don’t have a holiday between October and December to distract us from buying gifts for 2 months straight. Canada even now offers Black Friday sales in November to match the US, even though Canadian Thanksgiving happens on the 2nd Monday in October.
It’s easy to succumb to the pressure (and guilt) and start buying things at this time of year. Even things you might not have considered purchasing if you weren’t inundated with promotionals and infected with “the holiday spirit.” However, one thing many of us want, but rarely get, is the gift of time. The tricky thing about time is that once it’s spent, it can’t be regained. It’s done, never to be repeated again. It can’t be returned, exchanged, or traded in for something better. We all get one shot at the time we have.
Some months ago I read an article in the New York Times, “Want to Be Happy? Buy More Takeout and Hire a Maid, Study Suggests.” The article reports the findings of a study that people who spent money on timesaving services experienced increased levels of happiness. Timesaving services mentioned in the article included things like ordering takeout, hiring a house cleaner, or paying someone to run errands for you. If these are things that you hate doing, it makes sense to me that hiring someone to do them for you would increase your happiness. Not only do you not have to do the dreaded task, but you also have more free time to do something you would rather be doing.
So for this holiday season, enjoy the time you are spending with your loved ones. It’s not about the presents. Give yourself the gift of time and take an afternoon off to do something you really enjoy. Or, if you’re still scrambling around for gifts to buy, consider giving your loved ones time by offering to do something such as babysit the kids, clean part of the house, prepare a dinner, or pick up the groceries. The gift of time is precious.