A Great Holiday Gift That Costs Nothing: A Relationship Resolution

Self on 12.08.11
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Photo: James_jhs / Creative Commons

It's not too early to think about our resolutions for 2012, and what better way to get started than by knocking a gift off your list. A key component of happiness is a sense of belonging and strong relationships with other people. One way to strengthen a relationship is to give someone a gift in the form of a resolution.

Here's how: think of someone you're close to - this could be a spouse, child or friend - and ask yourself what you could do to improve your relationship with that person. I'll use my daughter as an example.

My Resolution Gift to my Daughter

Alex is 17-months-old and she is very excited about learning how to talk. She constantly points to objects and asks, "What's this? What's that?" Generally speaking, I'm pretty good at keeping a running commentary about what things are, what they are used for, etc.

But this morning, I had some work to do and she wasn't having it. We had a small battle of wills which ended in my sitting at my computer while she pointed at me and cried, "Don't!"

The thing is, the work I had to do should have been done last night. I would have been able to get absorbed in my work and I would have enjoyed it more had I not been doing it at a time when it came at my daughter's expense. Let's be clear, I didn't enjoy it one bit under these circumstances.

So my resolution-gift is going to be: "Be mindful of my time with Alex."

The three components of my resolution are A) sticking to my work schedule, B) really staying in the moment when I'm hanging out with Alex, and C) limiting TV time. We've been in a TV rut for the past week while we've been recovering from illness. While feeling run-down, I've been flipping on the TV more often so that I can go on autopilot. The scary thing is that Alex has begun to expect having the TV on, and she will fuss and point to it when she decides she wants to watch it. Not a road I want to continue to travel down.

If she were a little older, I would write all of this down and present my gift wrapped traditionally with holiday paper. We'll save that for next year's resolution gift.

Want Some Ideas?

Here are five ideas for resolution gifts:

1. Offer a compliment every day. This could be as simple as complimenting your spouse on his or her good looks, or on some days looking for something quirky and different to compliment. "You have the most adorable pinky toes." Or, "I love the way you say the word 'toast'."

2. Be grateful for your child's accomplishments. Be enthusiastic about how hard it must have been to get those shoes tied. (Rather than saying, "It's about time! Now we're going to be late.")

3. Take a hated chore off someone's plate. It doesn't have to be forever, but vow to take out the trash or tackle the dishes when it's not your turn once in a while.

4. Ye olde love note. Here's an oldie but goodie: slip a cute note into someone's pocket, briefcase or lunchbox.

5. One-on-one time: schedule time to be together, whether that's a date with your sweetie or taking your child to the zoo. Make sure it's a regular occurrence so you can stay connected.

Don't Know What Your Resolution Should Be? Ask!

We all have "blind spot" behavior. This is something we might do that's inconsiderate or annoying to others, a behavior of which we're blissfully unaware. The first step is to don your thick-skin suit so that you may gracefully accept some constructive criticism without getting defensive and picking a fight. That would be the opposite goal of this exercise.

Then ask your spouse one thing he or she would like you to start doing more of, and one thing he or she would like you to do less of. You might be totally surprised by what you hear. On the other hand, you might know the answer before you even open your mouth to ask the question.

Top Articles on Frugal Gift Giving:
2011 Gift Guide: Gifts Under $35
6 Guilt-Free Reasons You Should Buy Fewer Toys This Holiday Season
Frugal Mama Makeover Series: Thoughtful, Low-Cost Gift-Giving Tips