I have a friend who runs his own successful building company. He makes an impressive income as a result, but works from morning till night every day. As a result he rarely sees his family.
As a result he relies on spending money to offset his guilt. His kids always have the latest gadgets, the newest video games and the most expensive toys. His wife, too, often receives luxury jewellery or clothes in place of seeing her husband.
There are two problems with such a scenario. The first is that spending money on someone can never truly be an alternative to spending time with them. The second is that there’s only so much money available – and my friend often feels so guilty that he spends far more than he can afford.
The end result is a family he barely knows and a bank account always hovering in the red.
Of course there’s nothing wrong with buying gifts for your loved ones – be they family or friends – but this shouldn’t be an alternative to actually spending quality time together.
If you’re looking for ways to make someone feel special, but without it costing you the earth, here are a few ideas to get you started…
In today’s hectic world many of us talk – but without ever really *listening* to what someone is saying. But its a grossly under-rated skill. What child doesn’t want a parent to sit down with them, talk about school or their friends, and really consciously listen to the answers. We’re all the same – myself included. Somehow when someone really takes the time to communicate on a deeper level it can be a truly rewarding and enjoyable experience.
Ask Their Opinion
My same friend often buys vacations for his family. However he doesn’t consult them first; he just buys one and turns up at home with tickets. What’s sad is that he’s so distant from his kids these days that he no longer knows what they really like.
Asking someones opinion not only helps you to understand them better; its also flattering in its own right. Who wouldn’t be pleasantly surprised if their partner or friend dropped in to ask a question because they value your opinion?
It sounds silly, but reliability can be worth a lot to many people. Put simply; if you make a promise then stick to it. If the kids need picking up at 3pm then be there at 3 (at the latest). Don’t call home at 3.15pm to say there’s been a hitch at work and you can’t make it. Be that person who others know they can rely on.
While there’s nothing inherently wrong with buying a gift for someone, sometimes putting in a little more effort can be worth so much more. So whether you’re baking a cake to take round to the neighbors, or crafting your own Christmas cards, actually making something rather than buying it can both save you money and make your gift all the more special.
Go On A Hunt
Let me tell you a story. Some years ago my Dad mentioned a book that he had been searching for without success. It was an old book, long out of print, and despite an exhaustive search he’d failed to secure a copy. I mentally logged the fact and when I had some free time I went looking for it myself. The copy I finally found cost next to nothing – but the fact that I had remembered the book and then managed to find it for him meant so much more.
So if you’re considering gifts don’t just choose what’s expensive; also consider what’s difficult to find and takes effort; it makes for a very special gift.
Think of Them
“I saw this and thought of you”. What wonderful words. What could be nicer than being important enough to someone that they think about you even when you’re not around?
Of course thinking of others doesn’t have to involve buying them gifts. It can also take on all manner of other forms. From sending them a funny picture on Facebook that they’ll appreciate, to sending a random text, there are all sorts of low-cost ways to show people you’re thinking of them.
Lastly you can surprise people in a positive way. One example I saw recently was when my boss gave someone the day off work as a surprise. They didn’t even tell them; instead their boss spoke to their husband, asked him to make her breakfast the next day and then to surprise her with a day off. All as a result of her hard work. You better believe that person felt pretty special the next morning.
As I mentioned earlier, there’s nothing inherently wrong with spending money on other people – but it shouldn’t come as an alternative to putting in the effort to build strong relationships. Before you pull out your credit card next time try considering how you can make someone feel even more special. Sure, many of these ideas take a little effort, but that’s the point.
So go on – send your loved ones a text right now – tell them you’re thinking of them and ask how their day is going. It’ll take you all of thirty seconds, but it’ll help to make their day a little bit better.