Every year about this time, I start to get that uneasy feeling in my gut. As I watch the Christmas decorations go up and read about Black Friday controversy in the news... I start to feel the frantic, harried consumerism of the season swirling in the air again.
Now, don't get me wrong- I love Christmas and presents and spending time with family and friends. What I don't love is the fact that the US spends $601 Billion Dollars on Christmas. That's alot of money that ends up buying an awful lot of un-needed and useless gifts, that could have provided an awful lot of medical supplies, education funds, or micro loans!
Now, some people might choose to eschew gift-giving altogether during the holiday season, but I can't bring myself to follow suit- I love the joy of gift-giving when it's coupled with conscientious consumerism!
My personal convictions regarding the holiday season have become: spend less, give more, invest in quality time, celebrate what really matters.
Over the last few years, I've practiced spending less and less on Christmas and focused more on giving in other ways. Here are some of my favorite tips!
1. Give Experiences
Some of the best-loved gifts that I've ever given (and received) haven't been physical presents at all! Everyone craves quality time with the ones that we care about, and creating memories together lasts so much longer than yet another itchy scarf set or basket of hand lotion.
Here are some everyday adventure ideas:
- A certificate to rent skates and go ice skating (thermos of fair trade hot chocolate and sandwiches included, of course!)
- A Scavenger hunt that takes you and the recipient on a holiday tour of the best spots in your city to drink an excellent latte, view the craziest neighborhood Christmas lights, browse the coziest old book store, or visit an art gallery or christmas fair that you know the recipient would love.
- If you live somewhere snowy and your friend or loved one is outdoorsy, plan a snowshoe excursion or snow hike! Drive to the prettiest spot in your area, make sure to dress warmly and bring a camera to capture the winter wonderland! Bonus points for packing a thermos of soup to warm up- snow picnics are surprisingly cozy!
2. Give Handmade Gifts
I love handmade gifts. As a kid, I would spend hours creating embroidery and latch-hook projects for my mom and grandmas, and handmade ornaments, "books" and certificates for my dad and grandpas. Many of these Childish items are still displayed proudly or used regularly. As an adult, I still enjoy making gifts as a way to save money, add a personal touch to my gifts, and give gifts that I know the recipients will love and use- flavored syrups for my coffee-loving friends, spice rubs for the grilling fanatics, and handmade mittens for all! ; ) Check out some of my favorites on my Pinterest board, and let me know in the comments if you're planning on making any handmade gifts this year!
3. Give Pre-loved Gifts
This might not work for everyone on your list- but hear me out on this one. Giving gifts that aren't brand new may be frowned upon by some, but it's also an excellent way to spend less on Christmas and re-use other's cast off items. As a kid, my parents had a small budget for Christmas for my siblings and I, and they would stretch it by purchasing gifts for us that weren't brand new. Our gifts were often used books (I remember the Christmas my mom found a brand new set of the Chronicles of Narnia at the local Goodwill to replace our aging set), Classic toys like legos or lincoln logs, educational gifts, etc.
Though thrift-shopping for nice gifts requires a bit of searching, I've purchased old vintage games for Andrew, beautiful china for a friend's collection, and many other beautiful, meaningful, not-brand-new items for a fraction of what they would have cost new (or on ebay or at an antique store).
4. Give in the Name of a Loved One
Let's face it- many of us have everything that we need. Gifts made to charitable organizations in the name of a loved one are a great way to honor the special people in your life and give them something meaningful without spending money on a gift that will go unused. I love choosing organizations that mean something to people (choose an education initiative for the grandparent that was a schoolteacher, a microloan through KIVA for the aspiring entrepreneur, or child sponsorship for your nieces and nephews).
5. Take the Money You Save and GIVE
Give to something that matters and will positively impact the lives of others in a sustainable and respectful way.
How do you handle the holiday season as a conscious consumer? I'd love to hear!