Thursday, December 06, 2007
I'm not much of a Christmas or holiday person. In general, I choose to live a life of simplicity—one that isn't cluttered with excessive "stuff" just for the sake of having things, and one that doesn’t spend money just because money is available to spend. When it comes to holidays, I'm not usually one to give gifts—not to my family, parents, siblings, co-workers or friends. It's not that I don't care about these people—of course I do. It's just that I personally don't buy into the idea that you have to buy something to show someone that you care. Beyond that, most people—at least in this country—have more than enough stuff to last 20 lifetimes. Do we really need to add to it?
Now maybe I'm a downer because of my views, but I'm certainly not the only one who feels this way. Wouldn't you rather spend the days and weeks leading up to the holidays enjoying yourself and spending time with your loved ones instead of spending it at the mall? Wouldn't you rather put your money towards something really worthwhile instead of going into debt? Wouldn't you rather receive one really excellent gift than a bunch of impersonal trinkets?
I recently ran into this article
, from our weekly alternative paper that very eloquently describes how I feel. Here's an excerpt:
"You could easily be labeled a Grinch for taking a stand against holiday consumerism. In a culture fixated on possessions and money, binge shopping and going into debt to give Christmas gifts looks strangely like generosity…Just to equate how much you care about someone with how much you spend is, I think, a violation of what it is to be a really caring person."
So what's the alternative? Most people aren't prepared to NOT give gifts, nor do they want to disappoint people or be labeled as strange, uncaring, or cheap for not taking part in those traditions. Here are a few alternatives you can think about that will help protect your wallet and the planet—while making your holidays more memorable.
- Give less. Consider whether or not it's really necessary to give something to everyone you know just for the sake of "giving." Consider giving gifts to the people who mean the most to you. Even then, consider spending less money overall.
- Get personal. Gifts should be personal—they should be creative and thoughtful, showing a person that you know them, their taste and personality. Buy something that shows you care—no matter how small or inexpensive.
- Support local business. These days, local businesses can barely compete with big box stores, even though they may offer superior service and products. Supporting small businesses keeps money in your local economy too. Look for art galleries, jewelry makers, and other stores that showcase local crafts for one-of-a-kind gifts. Small clothing and home boutiques also make good choices.
- Go green. Most things we own (and give to each other) will end up in the landfill sooner or later. Look for environmentally-responsible gifts that are: made from recycled materials; recyclable when their useful life is over; made locally or in the USA (for a smaller carbon footprint); made from organic and renewable materials (like bamboo, cork, organic cotton and more).
- Buy secondhand. With our obsession of always buying new, many things go to waste, even when they're still useful. Give someone's gently used DVD, for example, a second chance. You'll save money and reduce your environmental impact. Check out vintage stores, thrift shops, and online auction sites like eBay and craigslist.org.
- Be charitable. Instead of buying "stuff" why not donate to a cause close to your recipient's heart—whether it's breast cancer research, Habitat or humanity, or educational causes. CharityNavigator.org will help you get started.
- Offer your time. If you have a skill (cooking, organizing, creating a budget, gardening, decorating, babysitting), offer that instead of a packaged present. Time and expertise are often coveted more than things.
- Enlist a service. Think outside of the gift box. Give someone the gift of housekeeping, personal training, cooking lessons, lawn care, or any other service that will free up their time to do other things.
- Try a group exchange. Save everyone time and money by forming a gift exchange. Try one for your family, one for your co-workers, and one for your tight-knit group of friends. Everyone draws one person's name and buys just one gift.
- Make something. Knit a scarf; make a simple painting; decorate some cookies; create an album of favorite photos; burn a CD of personal songs; or write a heartfelt letter. All of these things show people that you care.
Let's re-think what we usually do for the holidays. Simplifying your gift-giving is something we can all strive for, without missing out on any of the fun.
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