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Give. Whether it’s thanks or stuff.

Come this time of year, as the weather cools down and the leaves melt away, we gather with family to break bread (and turkey and pie and eggnog and potato pancakes and, and…) give thanks for family, friends, warm homes and food on the table — the basic necessities of life.

Some families have a tradition on Thanksgiving to say what they’re thankful for. In our family, we also make sure to thank our host, my Aunt Marcia, for not only cooking and preparing the meal, but organizing and gathering and making sure all 30 of us know where to go, when to arrive and what we can bring. And while we greet each other with hugs and depart with even more hugs, those simple, brief exchanges only work to relay our additional thanks for each other.

For many, the drive home, bellies and hearts full, is a time to contemplate what’s next. And what’s next – whether we like it or not – are the holidays.

Over the next month we’re going to be bombarded with commercials, ads, fliers, and songs to get us in the holiday spirit to buy, buy, buy. And as consumers, we respond by flocking to stores, filling baskets with presents, and spending a lot of money. And while the holidays are a great time to give gifts, remind yourself as you’re maxing out your credit card, that gifts don’t have to be the kind you buy in order for them to be considered better. I know folks who begin each holiday shopping spree still owing money for last year’s gifts. Is it me, or does filling your own stockings with debt not make much sense?

So often we lose sight of the value of a gift and focus instead on its price. But you can never estimate the value of giving help to a friend, spending time with a family member, donating to a coat drive, giving can goods to a food pantry, old cell phones to a shelter, or eyeglasses to someone in need. The list goes on. And while giving in itself makes you feel better, you can’t overlook the added benefit of giving yourself peace of mind — and more room in the closet — from getting rid of stuff.

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