If groceries, gasoline, or cars were part of your budget this year, inflation hit you hard. Now, perhaps you want to control your gift budget. On the other hand, you may not have seen your relatives for a long time and would not like to be less generous.
So here’s a challenge – even a quest. Find a way to surprise and delight your loved ones with gifts that cost no more than 24 months ago. It’s not just possible; it can be beneficial to both the giver and the receiver.
I found some fun gifts that actually cost less than two years ago. Others that you give away now may rise in value over the years. And then there are times when you can offer those who yearn for more, or relief for yourself.
“The most radical gift is when you take something away,” said Eva Rhodsky, author of Fair Play about couples, timing, challenges and attendant conflicts and resolving Commitments. The need to cook dinner. The requirement to go somewhere. ” (Or take the hard road to an animal fat purifier in your family.)
So, once the bird is in the pot, you ate French silk pie with your bare hands and look at the gift-shopping season as prices rise, given the gifts of technology, travel and time.
And schmalts. Literally.
Room, flight and telephone to record them
The few opportunities to pay less for good things lurk in plain sight, right under the painful headlines of rising inflation.
That 6.2 percent since the start of the month was the rise in the consumer price index in the 12 months to October, the biggest jump in 31 years. Bad news, of course.
But dig a little through the newsletters that the Bureau of Labor Statistics publishes and you will find unconditionally good news. The bureau that collects this data for the CPI reports that prices in the category “phones, equipment, calculators and other consumer information” fell 25.7% in two years.
Smartphones are a popular gift in this category. The Bureau of Labor Statistics began posting prices there in December 2019. In the months since then, prices have fallen by a whopping 29.1 percent.
So maybe this holiday season is the time to forcibly update the Luddite family. Or maybe it’s time to give up and buy your child’s first phone. (If so, consult our Wirecutter Category Guide and think smart instead.)
If someone from your circle loves to travel and is tired of being stuck at home, here is the long-awaited news too. The CPI includes an airline fare category and prices have dropped 23.7% over the past two years.
Where could you send (or take) someone? Consider data from research firm STR. I asked about some of the popular destinations where the average daily room rates have dropped by double digits over the past two years. That’s a decent list of attractive cities that include New York, Washington, Chicago, San Francisco, and Seattle.
The Hopper travel app offers promising flight details. Highlights include a 16 percent price cut at and from New York and Newark airports in two years. Flights to and from three Washington DC airports fell 10 percent.
However, if you are thinking about flights, it is worth noting that there was a spike in prices in the spring that has eased since then. You might want to act quickly now that extra Confidence Shots are available to everyone.
Gifts that are appreciated will be highly appreciated
Some gifts can go up in value – and not just virgin Barbies, which should remain in a box, or collectible cards, whose value decreases with every fold.
In the long term, the stock market has an upward trend. Money in an index fund is practically safe if you leave it there for several decades. Investing in individual companies is more risky, but even if the share you give away falls, the younger recipient can still learn valuable lessons.
Less satisfying than the alternatives may be a contribution to the 529 College Savings Plan, but it is just as valuable. I understand that a gift in the form of a one-day adventure with a 6-year-old niece or teenage grandson can leave unforgettable memories. But imagine the gratitude that would arise if the $ 100 you put into the bank each year meant that a 22-year-old would be paid his first student loan payments after graduation.
Gifts of time, joy and chicken fat
This is not to say that you shouldn’t give your time, possibly the most valuable resource you have.
If you work from home and therefore do not commute, you may have more work to do – provided that you are not among the workers devoting their possible travel time to their employer. Even so, there are probably people on your list who value your watch even more than you do.
Things like this can give you unexpected pleasure. Tim Kasser, emeritus professor of psychology at Knox College and author of the classic book on money and feelings, The High Cost of Materialism, performed elaborate timed coupon rituals with his wife and two sons. Particularly great was the “Drop it all and play with me right now, even if you work” coupon that his sons could get.
The gift of time comes in many forms. One of his sons, Dustin, who is picky about food, handed out an “I’ll try four new dishes” coupon. Mr. Kasser cashed him in by serving watermelon juice and a chickpea platter – meaning he didn’t have to waste time preparing a second meal if Dustin approved of the new cuisine.
Mr. Kasser did the same with his wife. He once took over one of her least favorite duties: washing reusable plastic bags. More than ten years later, he is still doing it.
For Ms Rhodsky – whose next book, Find Your Unicorn Space – is about finding continuous time for creativity and other happiness – the plastic bag gesture is exemplary on at least three levels.
First, it is a prime example of acceptance as bestowal. Secondly, it is best to remove a task that brings neither meaning nor happiness to the person who performs it. (You should know what this is for your spouse now. If you don’t know, ask.)
Finally, it was not a one-time affair – Mr. Kasser took over the routine work for a long time. Ms Rhodsky said her husband gave her a similar gift, eliminating the paperwork for her, filling out dozens of forms every year for their three children. In our conversation, she did not gloat over his labors on this front, but came close.
Ms Rhodsky has another gift idea for her husband to give to someone he loves. She mused about her mother-in-law’s kugel, a dish that took her an hour each way to cook in Los Angeles traffic for the special fat required by the recipe. This is exactly how it is done by a particular butcher, so that Mrs. Rodsky’s mother-in-law swears by his schmalch.
Does Mrs Rhodsky’s husband have more free time than his mother? No. But does Ms Rhodsky suspect that her mother-in-law would have appreciated that her son would be a good match for the precious fat – a task they call “running the bacon”? You are placing your bet.
Since many of us are getting back together on the eve of the holidays, think about all the opportunities you can give. Maybe the best gift would be a little schmalts.