Do you remember any gifts you received in past holiday seasons? Blogger Melanie Lockert of Dear Debt doesn’t, either. That’s why she encourages Grownups to curtail spending this holiday and focus on what really matters.

It seems that nearly every year, the holiday season comes even sooner than the last. Almost immediately after Labor Day, we’re bombarded with prompts to buy. After Thanksgiving, a holiday about being grateful for what we have, we’re prompted once again to continue to buy even more—so much so that Black Friday has expanded to Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday, and other cleverly named consumer events.

As Christmas rolls around, many of us are stressed trying to pick out the Perfect Gift for everyone from friends to family, coworkers to neighbors, and more. Needless to say, it can have us feeling a little…spent.

The holiday season may be the most wonderful time of year, but it can also be riddled with stress and lead to overspending, or even worse, debt.

Now, I love the holidays just as much as anyone, but I don’t think I’m wrong to say that consumerism has overtaken the holiday season. We seem to have lost the meaning of the holidays and what they’re all about.

What if we all got back to basics and celebrated the holidays without all the pressure and spending?

While I believe money can be used as a tool to make life easier and have nothing against giving gifts, I think the true meaning of the holidays has been displaced. It is possible to have a frugal, fun holiday season when you focus on what really matters. There are some things that money simply can’t buy. As the old adage says, “the best things in life are free.”

Money cannot buy the feeling of reconnecting with a friend you haven’t seen in awhile and catching up as if no time has passed at all.

Money cannot buy the feeling of being home with your family—regardless of how dysfunctional they may be. It’s your family, your blood, which you are forever connected with through stories and shared memories.

Money cannot buy health, despite our best efforts to eat well and take vitamins. Many of us take our health for granted, only realizing how good we have it, once illness strikes.

Money cannot buy love. Love, in all of its forms, can help us get through tough times and make good times that much more enjoyable. It can’t buy the feeling that no matter how hard you fail at something, you’ll have a support system in place.

Money cannot buy contentment. While money can buy a certain level of happiness, it cannot buy the feeling of being truly at peace.

These are the best things that money will never buy and what we should actually be celebrating over the holidays. Instead of buying more gifts that have the potential of being hidden away, accruing dust in a closet for years to come—or even worse—fated to be re-gifted, let’s focus on giving the most valued, prized commodity of all: the gift of time.

In today’s busy world, many of us are always on the go, making little time for ourselves, let alone family and friends. We stay connected through scrolls on Instagram, likes on Facebook, and the occasional text. We rush from one moment to the next.

This holiday season, take some time to really connect with your friends and family. Enjoy the musicality of shared laughs, the embrace of warm hugs, and the art of really good conversation. (Remember, no politics.) Delight in delicious food and strong libations and practice gratitude for everything you do have, instead of focusing on what you don’t have.

Take some time to unplug from the beeps, vibrations, and pings of digitally connected life. Your emails and texts will be there later, I promise. Recharge and get some much-needed rest. Sleep in. Do nothing. Curl up with a book or a movie. Tell someone that you’re proud of who they are. Write a handwritten note. Say “thank you.”

The holidays may be overshadowed by consumerism, but at the heart of the holiday season are beautiful moments and memories. Though we’re approaching the mad shopping rush that continues to encroach further into Thanksgiving each year—and you may have already indulged in the chaos that is holiday shopping—don’t let the ghost of Christmas past haunt your very special time with family and friends this year.

I think back to my own childhood and I can’t remember any of the gifts I received. I don’t even know what happened to them. I remember being with family and friends. Now that I’m an adult, I appreciate the time and space to rest, reflect, and reconnect.

Now, that’s what the holidays are all about—and it doesn’t have to cost a dime.

Melanie Lockert is a freelance writer and passionate debt fighter who writes at DearDebt.comShe recently climbed out of $81,000 in student loan debt and is currently dreaming of her next adventure.

Any third-party resources or websites referenced above are not under Society of Grownups control. Society of Grownups cannot guarantee and are not responsible for the accuracy of the resources, websites, or any products or services available through such resources or websites.

While Society of Grownups hopes the information is useful, it’s only intended to provide general education. It’s not legal, tax, or investment advice, and may not apply or be useful to your specific financial situation. If you need recommendations geared to your personal financial situation, schedule time with a financial planner.

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