Featured Image The holiday season is here! While this time of the year is probably my favorite, it can also be overwhelming especially when you are a ‘giver’ like me. Like many others, I love seeing the smiles on my loved ones faces when they open the gifts they’ve been wanting for months. It truly makes my heart happy to see others happy. There was a point in time where I felt obligated to try and get everyone something and to cross off everything on my list. However, that started to become stressful mentally and financially! So about 4 years ago I suggested that the adults in my immediate family try a ‘Secret Santa’ gift exchange. Each of us created a wish list with 3 items, we threw our slips of paper in a hat and we drew names at Thanksgiving dinner. We set a budget of $50 and we exchanged gifts on Christmas Eve. This alleviated the pressure of purchasing gifts for everyone (of course we kept the kids separate) and boy was it a hit! Every year, my siblings remind me to initiate the infamous family group chat regarding our Secret Santa gift exchange. It has become a family tradition that we all look forward to now. Another motto that we’ve taken on and that I personally take great pride in is “Creating experiences instead of just buying things”. As many parents can relate to, our daughter has gotten more toys than she knew what to do with during holidays past. Not to mention, her birthday is just a few weeks after Christmas! So I make it a point not to over do it. My husband and I chose 2 or 3 of her top wish list items. I provide our parents with one item each if they insist and we create memories in the place of the other ‘things’. I look for local events geared towards families, we have gingerbread house-making contests, we go ice-skating, we take day trips, etc. One year, we opted to use the funds we would’ve spent on unnecessary gifts and we stayed at a resort for the holidays. The ambiance alone was breathtaking and the festivities were awesome. It’s a memory that we all reflect on to this day. Lastly, I suggest that you get involved during the holiday season. While it may be a wonderful time of the year for you and your family, that isn’t the case for many. Volunteer at a shelter or at a local hospital. My family and I serve, provide gifts and play games with the homeless through an organization called CARITAS. We also donate our daughter’s gently used toys and clothes to shelters and she loves picking out gifts for the angel tree recipients at our church. After all, it’s always better to give than receive, no matter the time of the year. Remember, giving isn’t always monetary or materialistic. Quality time and love are always the best gifts in my opinion. Cierra T. Hi! I’m Cierra. I’ve been with VACU for 6 years and I am currently a Support Services Specialist. My family & I really enjoy traveling and pursuing new adventures. My husband calls me the ultimate planner and savings seeker. I enjoy sharing my experiences with hopes of inspiring and helping others. Other stories by Cierra T.