The Smith Family stopped giving gifts to each other at the start of the New Year. So far, they gained much more than they could have possibly imagined.
Okay so let's be real for a second, buying things can be great! Who doesn't love that new car smell or being able to wake up Christmas morning with hoards of presents under the tree? Everyone at some point probably finds some gratification from retail therapy.
Last year after a massive remodel of our home, and some serious deep cleaning, we realized we had WAY too much crap. Some of which was brand new and had never used. When considering over 767 million people in this world live on less than $1.90 USD a day (See the World Bank Understanding Poverty Overview for more information), this was quite a large wake-up call. After some reflection, we realized that "things" just clutter our lives and don't improve our happiness. Instead, our joy comes from spending time together and focusing on our family.
Like a happy family of eight, we are very tight knit and deeply committed to each other. However, it's not always "Kumbaya" or "sunshine and roses" at our house. We have our share of family meltdown moments, for sure! We also have other contributing factors to our family satisfaction and what makes us a happy family. Our faith, our health, and our commitment to one another play a HUGE role in our happiness. That said, we have uncovered that focusing on experiences and quality time over "stuff" has improved our relationships and family dynamic.
The Research Behind Our Findings
It was serendipitous when we found the fabulous Forbes article, "Why You Should Spend Money on Experiences NOT Things," at the end of last year following the remodel. In the article, the author recounts a 20-year study done by a professor at Cornell University which showed that more "stuff" could often hinder happiness. The author claimed that with such a consumer culture (especially here in the U.S.), it is easy to get lost in objects which are not needed. It can lead to an unhealthy "keeping up with the Joneses" comparison game.
While we did not feel like we were basing our happiness on our possessions, our family noticed (especially when going through our home) there were many things of minimal or no use. We love the idea of being out there in the world and making memories together, getting rid of the things that we don't need and making room for professional photobook services to document all of those memories we make instead. We wanted to spend less money on stuff we didn't use or need, and that was hard to cut back on! We were spending our time and extra income on items of no importance. Often, the things we were buying were simply just things. During a Sunday dinner together, we started a discussion; and, each person concurred that they would rather spend money on experiences with each other than on "stuff." We wanted to experiment and see if this did make us a more happy and content family!
(Drumroll, please) The year 2017 is the year of NO tangible gifts in the Smith home! Yes, you heard that right – no gifts! Honestly, so far it has been spectacular (to be fair, it is only May). As a family, we realized our best moments are when we are together – traveling, creating new memories, learning, serving, and getting away from the daily requirements of life. We want to encourage more of this types of experiences.
What our year of NO GIFTS looks like:
● For every holiday, we will make a nice dinner together, but no gifts. Literally. Our Mom told us not even to expect a card for our birthdays. Sounds harsh – but it isn't.
● We still buy necessities and replace needed items.
● No more buying just to buy.
● The money potentially spent on Christmas, Easter, Valentine's Day, birthdays, and other holidays goes toward the family travel budget.
● For Christmas this year, the ENTIRE family (plus two – by the time we take the trip our family of 8 will have turned into a family of 10. We have two weddings this year!) will be visiting a destination that has been at the top of the list for years (more on that in a later post). We will be focusing on what Christmas means to us and creating memories. That's all, and that's enough.
Why Shifting What We Spend Our Money On Has Made Us A More Happy Family
So far, this plan has worked for us because the pressure of having to buy is gone. We still do nice things for each other. Our sweet Mom gave Kam (the oldest child) an adorable bracelet just the other day after she had had a hard day; and, cute Becks (the littlest of the 8) still makes homemade crafts for everyone. However, the requirement of gifting is gone and replaced with spending more time together. In other words, our focus has shifted from things to quality time. It is a refreshing change. Nobody expects a Valentine's Day gift or a big Easter basket. No more scouring around the mall or Amazon just trying to think of something to give. We simply focus on each other.
The Smith Family
Meet the Smiths! We are an average family living in a crazy busy world, trying to juggle work, school, and family responsibilities. As a multi-generational family, we are always growing and changing. We have found that traveling all together with our family of eight (from the Grandparents on down to the little Grandbaby) provides a "time-out" where we can reconnect with the ones we love the most, without daily interruptions or distractions. We have been to six continents and over 40 countries together! Our family adventures are tremendously educational, and most of all, fun! It is our goal to encourage other families to take breaks together and go explore our amazing world!
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