One of the realities of our society is that, so often, money is a sign of status and legitimacy. Careers are often judged as being worthwhile in connection to how high the salary is. Gifts are often judged by their lavishness.
Indeed, a costly gift is often seen as “proof” that someone truly loves you. A good example is what I see among newlyweds in my neighborhood. Often, they compare their rings, and the young ladies with bigger, more expensive rings often feel more loved than those with smaller rings.
We often see parents try to buy their kids’ affection with the purchase of expensive toys, or quarreling couples “make it up” to each other with the help of expensive peace offerings. Unfortunately, these tactics often backfire. “I had a client who, after every argument with his spouse, would run out and buy some type of bling in the hope of improving the marriage,” says Christopher Dukes, a Certified Senior Financial Planner. “It had the opposite effect. His spouse actually started finding more to argue about in order to get more jewelry.”
Whether you are trying to placate a child or a partner, or whether you are just trying to show affection to a good friend, it’s tempting to just throw a lot of money at the situation in an effort to “prove” that you care. Unfortunately, this doesn’t actually do much to truly show love to the people who are most important to you.
Money is the Easy Solution
The reality is that money is the easy solution. I’m guilty of this sometimes. It’s much easier to just buy a gift card than to take the time to pick out a meaningful gift. Sometimes it’s easier to buy a bauble than it is to spend an hour or two engaged in a meaningful activity.
Money is often the easy solution. It’s easy to write a check to a charity. It’s much harder to actually go down to the soup kitchen and spend time serving out the meal. It’s easy to buy your child a new video game. It’s harder to carve out 45 minutes from your busy day to sit down and play a board game with him or her. It’s much easier to say sorry and present your significant other with an expensive gift than it is to say you’re sorry and then talk through your issues and feelings.
Give Your Time; It’s Irreplaceable
I actually think that giving your time is a better measure of affection than how much money you spend on a person. When my husband buys me a piece of jewelry, I think it’s a nice gift. However, when he accompanies to the annual jazz night, with dinner and dancing, I feel truly loved. He is not only taking time out to spend the evening with me, but he’s doing something he doesn’t particularly enjoy just to make me happy. (I also do things with him that I don’t particularly enjoy, just because it’s nice for him.)
Your time can’t be replaced. Even the time you spend thoughtfully picking out just the right gift is likely to mean more than a hastily bought gift card. In a world where so many of us feel pressed for time, the true measure of affection is your ability to spend time thinking about your loved ones, and taking the time to be with them.
Because your time is irreplaceable, it’s much more valuable than money. I can always earn more money to buy an expensive gift for someone else. It’s much harder to make up for the time I spend with someone. And I’ve come to view time spent with loved ones as time well spent, rather than time wasted. You never know how much time you’ll have to spend with a loved one. If you want to develop deep relationships that are more valuable than any amount of money, you have to put in the time. Those are relationships that can’t be bought with any amount of money.