As I write this article, we’ve experienced the events that have become cemented in the retail calendar as Black Friday with Cyber Monday following that.  Over time it has become a hugely successful event and even morphed into Cyber Weekend to encourage more spending. Last year it was estimated that over £1.4bn was spent online over this time.

Ostensibly we are encouraged to associate shopping and buying lots of gifts as part of the Christmas experience, and indeed for many, it is the same. As for my own charity TheGivingMachine, it is a time of year when more shopping is done than any other, and so our income and therefore free donations generated are significantly increased.  However, it’s also time to take a pause perhaps and consider what we are being caught up with.

TheGivingMachine: A Most Precious Gift

In my last article, I talked about community heroes and the one gift they all gave in large measure was their time to other people and causes to make a difference.  Despite all the handy time-saving devices and software we have access too, I meet very few people that say they have plenty of spare time, and perhaps on a more sombre note, the one thing that is definitely finite is our own time as it were.  So having discussed with friends and colleagues here are a few ideas to give precious gifts without breaking the bank.

A fish & chips dinner and a chat make a great gift! Whether for an elderly neighbour or friend, to put a couple of hours aside for someone and not make it a rushed experience clearly shows how important they are to you.

One on one time with kids: Whether it’s your children or those of friends or family, those times where it’s just you and them are more precious than any expensive gift.  It could just be a walk and then a milkshake but a day out is even better. This year, I discovered – buy one of these trails for a nearby town and have low cost, fun trip out finding clues and solving a puzzle.  We did this with our teenage kids, and they loved it.

TheGivingMachine: A Most Precious Gift

Time with close family & friends: We’re all kids at heart and so what’s good for kids is good for adults too.  Making time to have lunch, walk or chat about things other than jobs or discussing your children, for example, slows life down for a short time.  Finding ways to share a good laugh is definitely therapeutic. I can recommend listening to Michael McIntyre’s autobiography for example. On a long car journey with my wife while our kids were plugged into their own entertainment, the story and laughs made the journey an event we still talk about.

Even a simple games night in with friends playing cards or board games makes a great gift of time.  This could be a one-off or perhaps become a monthly activity to share some laughs with food and drink.  It’s a growing trend, and you’ll be in great company as there are many articles about the fact that one of the fastest growing industry is tabletop gaming in all its forms.

Volunteering: If you can spare the time, there are plenty of night shelters and winter meal stations that could do with a hand.  Just search for “Christmas volunteering” and add your town name and see what comes up. It could be life-changing for someone else, but equally, it could be life changing for you.

Indeed, research suggests that giving makes us far happier than receiving so by giving to others, we are making ourselves happier in the process.  Countless studies show that when looking at the habits of people that rate themselves highly on happiness scales, giving and other forms of contribution are a key part of that.

Give yourself a Gift: Last but not least, if your time is so precious, then making time for yourself is important too.  If there were no draws on your time what would you do with yourself to enjoy a slice of life? It is such a rare luxury for many of us, and we almost don’t know what to do without a list.  It could just be time to listen to music, watch a box set on Netflix. We often use the words “guilty pleasure” to describe these things as if they were something we shouldn’t do. I’m 51 and still give myself a bit of time now and then to play on my very own XBox One for no other reason than I enjoy it.

So as we progress towards the end of the year, we will no doubt continue to be bombarded and persuaded that we need to buy the next big thing.  Remembering that our most precious resource is time and when we give that to others or even ourselves we’ve given a far greater gift than money on its own can sometimes buy.

Richard Morris

CEO & Founder TheGivingMachine