Follow along with the transcript below for episode: Setting Your Intention for Holiday Shopping with Tracy McCubbin
[00:00:02] PF: Thank you for joining us for episode 392 of Live Happy Now. As the holiday season begins, it’s easy to get caught up in the frenzy of buying gifts. But this week’s guest wants us to consider a different way. I’m your host, Paula Felps, and this week I am joined by decluttering expert, Tracy McCubbin, who is asking us to take a step back and become more intentional with our holiday shopping. In this episode, she explains how we can approach the holidays differently to create more joy, focus on giving of ourselves rather than giving gifts, and how we can shift the focus from shopping to sharing the spirit of the season. Let’s take a listen.
[00:00:41] PF: Tracy, welcome back to Live Happy Now.
[00:00:44] TM: Thanks, Paula. I’m so happy to be had. I’m living so happy to be back.
[00:00:49] PF: Hi. I’m happy to have you back. This is something you and I talked about the first time that we had a conversation because it became so apparent that we could use your expertise in this area. We’re moving into the holiday season now. We’ve got Black Friday, two days after this podcast goes up, and it’s a time when everybody – Their mind turns to shopping. It’s like even the casual shoppers seem to turn into power shoppers. So I wanted to talk to you about some of the ways we can safeguard ourselves, our budgets, and the people who are receiving gifts from us, and make this less cluttery and more practical and fulfilling for us.
[00:01:28] TM: I love this conversation. I’m so excited to be talking about this. So let’s just start with what we should start every day with. But let’s start with this around holiday shopping season. Let’s talk about our intention, right? What’s our intention for buying gifts? Are we buying things because we feel guilty? Are we buying things because that’s what we’ve always done? What’s our intention?
I like to, as a business owner, at the end of the year, some vendors that I work with, some clients that were big jobs, my team, I like to give holiday gifts because I want to thank them for their relationship. It’s a way for me to acknowledge, and I’m very intentional about it. I buy things that can be consumed. I don’t assume that I know anything about them. My staff, they want money. That’s what they need. So I try and get a little something that we have at the party. Last year, I gave them all reusable knives and forks and a little kit. So we had a petite lunch on the job.
[00:02:33] PF: Oh, that’s so cool.
[00:02:35] TM: Yeah. So it’s about being intentional. As the sales start and Black Friday is the mother of all the sales.
[00:02:45] PF: Got those running shoes on?
[00:02:46] TM: Exactly. It’s about starting with do you have a list. Are there things? Have you been waiting? Like our TV broke. We need a new TV. Have you been waiting for the Black Friday sales? That’s great. You’re intentional about it. You’ve done your research. You know what you want to buy. But if you just go into Black Friday and Cyber Monday and just, “It’s a deal, it’s a deal, it’s a deal, it’s a deal,” you’re going to end up on the wrong side of buying.
It’s about, before this holiday season starts, you getting intentional with why you’re buying and your budget. What can you afford? Look, Paula, if you can’t afford to buy something, it’s not a gift to someone else. If buying that gift puts you in debt, you’re not giving someone a gift. So really starting this holiday season out like, “Here’s how much I have. These are who I want to buy for. This is what it looks like.”
[00:03:45] PF: We do fall into that trap, and there’s several different entry points to this trap. One of them is people who say, “We have to buy for our entire family.” Have a friend who they get together, and it’s all the nieces, the nephews, the in-laws. Those lists are ridiculous, and it’s a financial hardship, and it takes away from maybe they would have gotten a nicer gift for their spouse or for one of their children, and it’s like, “Well, I can’t. I have this much money, and now it has to be spread between 30 people.” So –
[00:04:16] TM: The thing about that too is those 30 people, like, look, take the little kids off the list, right? Because it’s a different experience for them. But those 30 people, I can guarantee that 29 of them don’t need what you’re buying for them, right? Like I have friends who they’ve done it. They have a complicated extended family, their step parents and somebody raised in a house that was – It’s like 40 people all variously related. This is the greatest thing. Every New Year’s Day, they have their New Year’s Day party together. They pull a name from a hat. The whole year, they only get presents for that one person.
[00:04:54] PF: I love that.
[00:04:55] TM: Every birthday. So one person takes care of one person. Like you said, they get nicer things. They get things they can use. Also, can we start normalizing that it’s okay to ask people what they want? Like this idea that you’re supposed to just figure it out, and you’re supposed to have mental telepathy. When did that happen?
[00:05:20] PF: Yeah. Because people end up buying something that they would like and think somehow this other person is going to like it. It’s like, “Yeah, we don’t.”
[00:05:28] TM: Right. Look, there’s something. It’s a tradition and Hanukkah and Christmas. Sort of doing that is fantastic, but let’s go this year into being mindful. Is it just another toy that’s going to get broken? Is it just another sweater? Are we just buying because somebody in our family said we had to? What about a family trip? What about – I mean, I think about grandparents. They don’t need anything. They’re at the last chapter of their life.
I was lucky enough last Saturday to go – I have a friend in my life who’s 94. I drove down, we had lunch with her, and it was just the best day. I thought holidays are coming up, and I was like, “Oh, no, no, no. This is what she wants, and this is what I want.” These are the gifts I’m going to give her. I’m going to give her the gift of my time and get the gift of her time, like to be able to spend this time with her.
If there’s someone – If you find yourself – Look, nothing makes me crazier than that like the gift to get the person who has everything. If they have everything, they don’t need anything.
[00:06:40] PF: They need nothing.
[00:06:41] TM: I’m letting you off the hook and –
[00:06:47] PF: Well, why do we start thinking that we need to do that? What happens in our brain that makes us go from rational budgeted people to, “I’ve got to get this. I’ve got to buy it.”?
[00:06:59] TM: Today, they start playing that Mariah Carey Christmas song. It’s the season, and we’re just trained, and we’re marketed to, and we’re – It’s just the way that it’s always been. But I’m saying we can mix it up. We can make it different, right? We can approach this a different way.
Somebody just messaged me, and it cracked me up. They said every time their mother-in-law comes over to their house, she brings something she’s decluttering, and she hides it in their house. They did it in a way that it’s become this kind of fun game for the grandkids. They’re like, “What did Nana leave?” Like they’ve got to try and find it. So is there a way that when you’re talking with your family like, “Can we take a trip together? Can we all go in on something for the one person that really needs it?”
It’s not about the volume. It’s not about who’s got the most presents under the tree. It’s are you being intentional, and what’s your intent in your buying, and understanding that you’re being marketed to. You know that little thing like, “One for them, two for me.” Or it’s on sale. It doesn’t matter if it’s on sale, if you don’t need it. If you don’t need it, and you’re not going to use it, and you buy it on sale, you’ve still wasted money.
[00:08:23] PF: You said something that I want to touch on again, and that was buying gifts for another family. I think that is some of the greatest joy you can find is when you adopt a family. Or like for us, it’s been the last few years an older person because I’ve lost most of the old people in my life that I really cared about, and there’s something very special about being able to give them things that they truly need and want. So talk about that, how we can go about doing that.
[00:08:53] TM: Yeah. I think that’s so – One of the great things about being of service, doing things for other people, is that, first of all, it doesn’t take much. It’s like if there’s an elderly person that can’t get out the way they used to, and you’re already at the grocery store, and you call them and say, “Hey, can I pick you up?” They’re like, “Oh, great, a few things.” You’re already at the grocery store and what you’re going to gain from that experience, well, you’re going to feel the joy you feel, the self-respect you feel by helping someone else. I feel like we tend to lean into it in the holiday season, but we can do it all year. Like if it feels that good, we can do it all year.
I think the interesting thing to point out here, Paula, is one of the biggest health – One of the hardest things on an elderly person’s health is loneliness. So can you go and visit a neighbor? Can you make some cookies and sit down and have a chat? Like I said, I went to see my godmother, and we were going to only be there for an hour. We were there for four hours. It was a glorious afternoon. We sat outside, and we had lunch, and we drank iced tea and laughed and told stories. She’s getting ready to go. It’s going to be her time soon, and there were things I think she needed to say, and it was so lovely to be able to be there for that.
So if you can take this time, if the gift giving and getting isn’t fulfilling, like you said, can you do something else with your time?
[00:10:30] PF: That is such great advice. Another thing that you touched on is experiences. We’re also big on that, like doing an experience for the family instead of gifts, going on a trip, or maybe depending on what your budget is. Maybe it’s a day at Six Flags or the zoo or something like that. Talk about how that can be such an ongoing gift.
[00:10:54] TM: The thing that’s – I mean, look. You and I have talked about like what we went through in the pandemic and our loss of connection with our tribe, with our people. We don’t need more stuff now. We need to reconnect. We need to see people, and those experiences do that, right? To say like, “Oh, well. We all went apple picking for the day.” Or, “Somebody really wanted to try this restaurant. So we all chipped in, and we always went and shared a meal.” That’s the stuff that you’re going to remember. Because I’ll bet if you look back on the holidays past, I don’t think you can remember what anybody gave you.
[00:11:30] PF: You remember what somebody else got that you wanted but –
[00:11:33] TM: Yeah, exactly. Exactly. So swapping that out for experiences and understanding that what those experiences do is they create the memories. They create the memories, and they reinforce the connection. That’s what we’re looking for, right? That’s what we want. We want to be connected to our people. So I invite people to do it differently, and there’s going to be somebody who’s going to gripe. There’s going to be somebody who’s like, “We’ve always done it this way. We can’t.” But maybe slowly, when they understand and they sort of see it another way, you can get everybody on board.
[00:12:11] PF: That was going to be my next question. Because as you said, not everyone’s going to go, “Oh, my God, Tracy. Great idea. Let’s do it.” So if you’re the lone voice, how do you, one, bring it into the conversation, and how do you sell this to them? They’re being marketed to 24/7. How do you market our ideas?
[00:12:32] TM: I think you – Let’s say there’s sort of 12 people in your family that you do this. I think, first of all, to quote Brene Brown, “Clear is kind.” Talk about it like, “Hey. This year, we’ve had a lot of expenses. We just feel like we can’t buy presents in the same way that we have in the past. We really want to do something with our family. Who’s on board for this?” Then if someone puts up resistance like, “What’s that about,” because, usually, the person who puts up the resistance, it’s not that they necessarily – It’s, like you said, that they want to really shop for themselves. They want the experience of the shopping.
Also, maybe they really need stuff. Maybe they’re not being truthful. Maybe they’re like, “No, I need gifts this year because we’re having a tough time.” But I think if we can take this idea that it’s all supposed to be a big surprise. If I see one more car commercial with the giant bow on it, and the husband or wife is like, “How did you know,” it’s like that does not happen. First of all, I think about it too. If my husband to be bought me a car, I would be like, “Wait, what? That’s –
[00:13:49] PF: How much did – Why did we not talk? Do we not talk about purchases over $1,000 anymore?
[00:13:54] TM: Exactly. That there’s so much stuff with that. So I think it’s starting not going in and being a bull in a china shop and “We’re doing it this way.” But saying, “Hey, this is what I’ve been thinking. This is what I’ve been feeling. Here’s where we’re at financially.” Because the other thing that that does is that that normalizes a conversation about our finances, right? We’re so embarrassed to say, “I can’t afford that.” But maybe you’re just being truthful, right? You can’t afford everything. Why do you pretend that you can?
I think it’s having – Thanksgiving is coming up, so you could – That you’d sort of say to people like, “Hey, maybe we do it differently this year.”
[00:14:37] PF: Right, right. Thanksgiving is the ideal place to kind of broach that conversation and kind of get the ball moving in a different direction. With adults, it’s one conversation, but what about with kids? Because, especially like tweens, teenagers, where they’re like, oh, man, they want the shiniest new gadget, and they want things, and there’s so much pressure now to have all those things. So how do you pick up that conversation with them, and how do you approach them differently than you do, say, other adults in your life?
[00:15:09] TM: Yeah. Honestly, I think that it’s never too soon to talk about finances. It’s never too soon to say – You don’t want to burden your kids with your finances, but there’s nothing wrong with a conversation of like, “This is what we have to spend on Christmas. This is what we budgeted. It is not an endless, bottomless well of spending. This is what we have. So can you rank what you want in order?” If there’s something that they want that doesn’t fit in the budget, can you say, “Great, do you want to work this off? Like can we do a trade? Can you learn that X amount of times of mowing the lawn gets you those new air pods?”
I think it’s a very, very healthy conversation, and studies have shown that the sooner kids have financial literacy, the more successful they are in the future. If your kid doesn’t see you overcharging and getting all this credit card debt to give them the perfect Christmas, they’re not going to understand the cause and effect of putting things on a card. But if you can say like, “We have $500 a person or $250 a person to spend on Christmas, how would you like that?” They get the idea of budgeting. So I think that there’s a very, very positive way to have the conversation and use it as a teachable moment.
[00:16:33] PF: That is so good because I remember many years ago going Christmas shopping with a friend, and she was joking but yet entirely serious that she hadn’t paid off last year’s Christmas presents, and here we are shopping. It was surprising to me because it’s like I didn’t take it that seriously.
[00:16:51] TM: Then she’s putting herself in a financially difficult position to look good for other people, right? To look like she’s being generous, but she’s hurting herself. I would venture a guess that if the people in her life that she was buying gifts for knew how hard it was for her, they’d be like, “Don’t buy me anything. Don’t do that. You don’t have to do that.” So really, get honest about how much you have to spend.
That’s why as the sales start, if there are things that you’ve had your eye on, and they go on sale, and it’s a smart decision, fantastic. But if you’re buying just because it’s shiny and, like you said, it’s, “Oh. Well, everybody’s getting the Cabbage Patch doll,” or whatever the new toys. I just dated myself, Paula, to be talking about that.
[00:17:38] PF: I remember those fights over the Cabbage Patch dolls.
[00:17:42] TM: The new toy that everybody’s got to have and the kids got to show up in school with. Of course, for the teenagers and the tweens, that’s what’s happening. That’s what’s happening in their development and their social group. But is there some things that they can work off like, “Well, you want this. So it costs X. So here’s how you get it, babysit for the neighbor or take somebody’s trash cans in.” You can help them figure out what something costs and what they have to do to get it. I think it’s a very – I think that’s the best gift you can give a child is financial –
[00:18:15] PF: Yeah. That’s a whole another gift that keeps on giving. Then you hit the end of the shopping season, and people are like – Things they were laughing about at the beginning of the shopping season now become viable gifts. It’s like, “Ah, a Chia Pet.” Or it’s like, “Who does not need the desktop basketball set,” right?
[00:18:35] TM: Yeah, and if you find yourself just buying because you have to buy. I had a dear friend of mine last year send a beautiful Christmas card. In it, she said, “I am purchasing no gifts this year. I have given money in everybody’s name to plant a tree in Northern California, where the trees had burned down.” I was like, “Thank you. Thank you so much. Thank you for doing that. I don’t need anything. That is great.” So some of those, like something that you know will make the world a better place may be the best use for your money, as opposed to a Chia Pet or a desktop basketball –
[00:19:15] PF: I love that because, yeah, having something done in your name is a huge gift. I think people that haven’t experienced that kind of underestimate how good it feels for the recipient to be like, “Oh, my gosh. You did that for me.”
When my mom was in her last days, so the last few Christmases we had with her, she didn’t need anything. Everything’s downsizing. Go to assisted living and then nursing home. So I started doing the Heifer International with her, and it’s like it became this thing because it’s like, “Oh, I got you a goat this year, Mom, and look –” It was a cool thing. Like she appreciated it and it was – I don’t know. It just seemed special, more – I can’t remember any gifts that I gave her up until that point in her life.
[00:20:00] TM: For her and also think about her in that position, right? She’s winding down. She can’t do what she used to. But she basically used her gift to help someone else. I mean, the Heifer International project is unbelievable, right? Because it’s like you give one person a goat, and then they have goats, and then they give their goats on. It just goes forward. So for your mom to still be able to contribute and help people must have made her feel fantastic.
[00:20:28] PF: Yeah. And it was a really special time for us. It was a great moment that we shared and, again, hard to explain if you haven’t actually done that and experienced it. So what if you are the recipient, if you are the victim of a heavy shopper? How do we kindly send a message that, “No. Honestly, I don’t need anything. I don’t want anything.”? How do we send that message?
[00:20:51] TM: I think you start early. I don’t think you blind side somebody. I don’t think you wait until the morning when everyone’s wrapping presents. You just start – You know who those people are in your life. I think you start saying now like, “Hey, I just want to give you a heads up. I really don’t want anything for the holidays. I am downsizing. I am X, Y, and Z. I really don’t want anything. What I would love is to go to a movie and lunch with you. What I’d love is to do X, Y, and Z with you,” and offer them an alternative.
Some of them we’re not going to be able to help. I mean, I would say maybe you want to buy them my book, Make Space for Happiness,” so they kind of look at what they’re doing. But I think it’s about not being angry with them and getting as far ahead of it as you can like, “I don’t need anything. I don’t. I don’t. I don’t want anything. I don’t need anything. I want to spend time with you. Can we make that our gift?”
[00:21:49] PF: I love that. That is such great advice. I think everybody can change their whole holiday season by doing that because it just kind of makes you take a breath and refocus on, and you don’t have to buy wrapping paper.
[00:22:02] TM: Yeah, exactly. [inaudible 00:22:05] benefit. That’s the other thing. When it’s an experience like that, both of you win. You get to spend time with that person that you love. Paula, instead of looking at it like, “I’m not getting – I’m not buying anybody some presents,” it’s like we’re getting to do this thing that we love, that we love to do together.
I think that’s really the trick. I’m focusing on the positive side of it. It’s about being intentional. I think that’s the interesting thing, right? Be intentional about how you decorate your house. Be intentional with the gifts you buy. Be intentional about what kind of holiday season you want to create. Do you want it to just be about the stuff? Or do you want it to be about reconnecting with the people that we may have lost touch with over the last couple of years?
[00:22:55] PF: I love that. That’s so important. That’s such a great message. That is a perfect place to wrap it up. Maybe we’ll get together after the first year and talk about what to do with all the stuff we got that –
[00:23:05] TM: Yeah, yeah. January is Get Organized Month. Let’s talk about it in January. I got lots of tips, lots of tips here over that unwanted holiday stuff.
[00:23:14] PF: All right. We will talk again. But, Tracy, thank you. Thank you for your insight and your guidance and for talking with us today.
[00:23:21] TM: Thanks, Paula. Great to see you, as always.
[END OF INTERVIEW]
[00:23:28] PF: That was decluttering expert Tracy McCubbin, talking about how to step back and become more intentional with our shopping this holiday season. If you’d like to learn more about Tracy and her work, follow her on social media, or buy her book, Make Space for Happiness, visit our website at livehappy.com and click on the podcast tab. If you’d like to pick up some intentional gifts designed to spread joy all year long, the Live Happy Store is having its annual Black Friday sale. If you visit us at store.livehappy.com, you’ll find lots of great joyful merchandise that you can share with others this season.
That is all we have time for today. We’ll meet you back here again next week for an all-new episode. Until then, this is Paula Felps, reminding you to make every day a happy one.