01/26/2009 05:12 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

The Gift that Pays Dividends in This Economic Recession

The talk of the town is the stock market "correction", and boy what a correction it has been. But at the risk of sounding too "granola", I do think this recession offers an opportunity for a correction of our whole culture.

The galloping, almost addictive, materialism of the 80s and 90s and the conspicuous consumption that it championed has been hobbled. In my own household - and I'm sure this is echoed across America - instead of pining over glossy brochures of new cars and exotic destinations, our conversations have changed.

"I don't think we need a new car." Or, "I don't think we're going to make it to an expensive vacation this year."

Our behaviors have changed, too. Instead of going to a fancy restaurant, we decide to just do pizza and a movie. Instead of a catered party, we host a pot-luck supper.

The somewhat surprising news is that despite what the media is proclaiming as sacrifices and "doing without", we're still happy. And I have to confess, I feel a kind of relief. We don't have to worry about keeping up with the Jones', because the Jones' are doing just as bad as we are.

As a man, it feels wonderful to be able to say "No" to my wife and have her say, "O.K." As a family, and also within our circle of friends, we are finding quieter pleasures that are less dependent on the next shiny new thing.

We are becoming more grounded in one another.

So here's what I'd like to invite my readers to do this holiday season. I'd like for you to literally add onto your gift list the gift of yourself.

For example, you might give your thirteen year-old the gift of twenty hours of homework help. Make up a little ticket book with twenty stubs worth one hour each. What kids have always craved and needed from us is time together. Can you think of a better stocking stuffer or Hanukkah gift?

Instead of a new ring, you might give your wife a photo album of snapshots that you have collected and edited. Let's just see if she can fight back the tears of joy over that one!

You might give the gift of spending time as a family working together at a homeless shelter or preparing meals for the less fortunate. The need is great throughout the year, not just at the holiday times.

Consider the gift of cutting back on your alcohol consumption by 50%. You'll save money and be more present emotionally to your family.

Give your spouse the commitment to lose twenty pounds and the promise to spend six months at the gym. You'll be giving more years together as a healthy couple, and you'll improve your sex life!

In these tightened times, let's use being more responsible financially to be more generous emotionally. It's a gift with real dividends - the kind that have more spendable market value.