Socratic Seminar: Gifting at Work

We scrimp and save when times are tough, and by scrimp and save I mean, adding a few weeks between salon trips, eating a few more pasta dinners in the name of counting pennies rather than calories, or carpooling when we’d rather drive solo. My feelings are, unless you’ve completely cut off all excessive purchases for yourself (when did the phrase “Christmas gift to myself” transition from undoubtedly selfish to socially acceptable?) then we should continue giving as we did in the past.  That means, appropriately gifting people at work, you know the people you spend more time with than your own family.  It’s a time to thank those who touch your life (I’m thinking about a few of my colleagues), make your days brighter (I’m talking about my custodian who has a smile on her face every afternoon as she scrubs, vaccuums, and dusts), and help you out in a pinch (I’m looking at my instructional assistant who is a lifesaver). Let’s breakdown a real teacher example.  My salary has remained steady for about three years, but my rent and monthly expenses have increased by about $300-400. How do you decide where to skim and shave off the excess? For me, that means buying for others EXCLUSIVELY. I don’t mean altering your diet from grass-fed to drive-thru dolla menu. I just mean making a few sacrifices to continue providing for those who count. Here are some suggestions:

1.  The salon:  I know your bi-weekly manicures have turned into monthly manicures, but really, do you HAVE to get your mani (and pedi)?  Traditional solution – skip your manicure and do it at home or even better, invite a friend or two and do them for each other. You’ll spend time with someone at the holidays and save some cash.  Now for the sacrifice solution – instead of getting your holiday manicure, use that money towards gifting your custodian or a hardworking secretary a salon giftcard for the manicure you wanted. (I know, it sounds like a no-brainer, but I hardly know anyone in my building who does it, and I hardly know anyone who holds off on a holiday manicure.)

2. Food Collection:  We hear it all the time, the food banks are in dire need of non-perishable goods.  Traditional Solution – contribute a few cans to your school’s collection.  Sacrifice solution – Instead of passing the food collection at the grocery store, plan ahead. Every time I go to the grocery store during November and December, I put back $5 worth of items in my basket and replace it with a nourishing protein – tuna, beans, or peanut butter and a canned fruit or vegetable. At the end of each month I’ve got a bag full of non-perishables ready to go. Or, challenge your class by telling them that you will match whatever they contribute.  I teach in a high-poverty area where the students stuffing the bags are actually receiving the bags at the end of the day, and I was able to get almost 100 items between 20 students.  Yes, that meant I went to the store and forked over some money, but it was worth the lesson for my students so that they could see an adult giving, and giving more than I expected of them…something they will hopefully do when they become adults.

3. Gifts:  Traditional Solution – spend a bit less, or forgo gifts for people at work.  Sacrifice solution – forgo gifts with someone who doesn’t really need it and chip in towards someone who does. Last year my parents needed a few home improvements so my siblings and I opted out of our exchange with each other and chipped in for the repairs & new furniture. I was so happy to gift my parents something they needed and I don’t think my brothers missed out on searching for the perfect female gift for their sister.  Or, my favorite, skip that almost $5 gingerbread latte and get a small gift card for someone who helped you at work.  Replacing others for yourself…seems pretty simple!

So, those are my thoughts on how we can recapture the season of gifting. If anything, when times are tough it means we need to make even greater sacrifices. Where’s the evidence of “giving” when you can easily cover the cost of your holiday shopping list?  Now, back to where we started…I think its important to share some holiday cheer with the people who help you most at the work place. In any other profession employees gift their boss, their colleagues, and I promise, not all of them are making significantly higher salaries than we are, so that’s no excuse.  Happy gifting!

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