The winter holiday season is over-saturated with stuff and overspending. That said, there’s still plenty of time left, along with many chances to have a less consumer-based holiday season. The tips below can help you have a nicer, less consumer-minded, more family focused holiday season.
Come up with a plan
The best way to combat holiday consumerism is to think things through before hand and to have a solid family focused plan in place. This is tough for a lot of us, myself included. Try discussing the issue with your family and friends early on. Talk about what sort of holiday you’d like to have, plus stuff you’ve liked or not liked about holidays past. If you need some good celebration ideas read I’m Dreaming of a Green Christmas and Celebrate Green.
Start creating traditions when your kids are young
Getting older kids to convert from a stuff-based holiday to a more activity and family focused holiday is very hard. Kids raised to value stuff over people will obviously not value holiday celebrations. Encourage kids from an early age that holidays are about hanging out with family and giving over simply getting presents. It’s best to raise kids right from the start, rather than switch it up later. Keep in mind that discussing green holidays and family-based celebrations does not take away from the magic of the season.
Convert older kids and others
If you’ve spent years celebrating gifts and stuff vs. family time, you’ll need to adjust everyone’s train of thought. Discuss how consumer-driven holidays don’t appeal anymore and discuss ways to make changes. This is one of those times that you’ll need to fess up to your child that you’ve been wrong, especially if you’ve been over-showering the holidays with gifts galore up to this point. Change can happen, but don’t expect it to happen overnight.
- Common behaviors of kids with overly consumer holiday values
- 10 best ways to raise greedy kid
- How parents and other adults can avoid commercialism
Celebrate a Buy Nothing Christmas this year
Yup, it’s way outside the norm, but also an excellent challenge and will still be fun to boot. Need help planning your Buy Nothing Christmas? See the following:
- Buy Nothing Christmas FREE information kit
- Buy nothing shopping catalog
- Ideas about gifts you don’t purchase
Green gift giving essentials
First, make a budget and stick to it this year. Then, before you buy another gift, make sure you have really thought about the gift shenanigans in this country. Once you start thinking about it, you’ll likely notice that it’s a little out of control.
- Figure out why you give gifts: I don’t get why we choose specific holidays to give and get things. It really makes very little sense if you think about it and is a little arbitrary. Make sure you’re giving gifts that you want to give, not just giving gifts because it’s expected.
- Consider not giving gifts at all: Celebrate another way. Will the world end? Probably not.
- Don’t give hundreds of gifts to everyone: Just because you know someone, doesn’t mean they need a gift during the holidays. Teachers, co-workers, friends, family and more – it all adds up. Only give gifts to your immediate (IN THE HOUSE) family and see how that feels.
- Don’t give hundreds of gifts to anyone: Kids don’t need a million gifts. No one does, but kids seem to reap the main bulk of gifts in my experience. One or two very much wanted items can easily replace 30 or 40 gifts.
- Go thrift: It’s 100% okay to buy a gift from a thrift store. I’ve gotten many a cool item at a thrift store. Of course, not everyone agrees. In fact, check out the debate in the comments at Get Rich Slowly; but I’d bet my life that these folks are in the spend a lot more category of humans.
- Re-gift: Some look at re-gifting as tacky. However, what’s more tacky in my opinion is a landfill full of junk that no one is using anymore. Re-gifting is not evil or even slightly bad. WHY hold onto something you’ll never, ever use? Why not give it to someone else who may like it. It’s tacky to keep all sorts of junk around your house just because you think you’ll hurt someone’s feelings or because you feel obligated to hold onto stuff. It’s much better to give an item to someone who will use it, then it is to keep it.
- Don’t feel guilty: Tell people before hand that you’re only giving gifts to your immediate family, or just to the kids, and ask them to please not get you anything. If they still get you something, stick to your guns and don’t just rush out and buy some dumb guilt gift. If everyone on earth quit buying meaningless crap for people, think of how many resources we’d save.
- Have a name drawing: Some families draw a name, and only give a gift to that one person. See if this could work for you.
- If you have a baby: Ask that people don’t get your baby gifts. Babies don’t care about gifts AT ALL and yet, in my experience, they get more than anyone. Ask for free babysitting instead. That’s a gift you can actually use.
- Just say no to gift cards: I hate gift cards as gifts under most circumstances. A gift card says, “I feel like I have to get you a gift, but I don’t know you well enough to pick one out.” Wow – why are you getting that person a gift again? I feel like one exception is a gift card that’s necessary because it’s extra personal. For example, you know someone who likes LUSH but scented stuff is so personal that it’s tough to pick stuff out on your own. Or someone loves music but they have so much that you’re not sure what they already have, so an iTunes gift card works. Overall, though I do think that gift cards are very consumer driven gift – why not just hand out cash and be up front – i.e. say, “I have to give you a gift because the holiday mandates that I do.“
Give creative gifts that cost less
Instead of giving expensive item gifts, try out one or more than one, of these ideas below.
- Give the gift of time instead of stuff.
- Make homemade gifts that actually rock, but aren’t that expensive.
- Give mixed CDs to everyone. Make cool CD covers with art supplies you already have. If you don’t keep art supplies handy, use old magazines (25-50 cents at a thrift store) to make collage type CD covers.
- Buy $20-30 worth of baking supplies, make cookies and chocolate covered cherries with the kids and give treat boxes, plates or baskets out. You can easily snag a ton of recycled candy/cookie boxes on the cheap.
- Organize someone’s photo collection for them – seriously, I totally need this gift.
- Give coupons for free nights of babysitting, yard work or house cleaning.
- Plant a tree in someone’s name – but take them along to do so.
- Make a homemade thrift store dress up kit for a child.
- Give gifts from around the house. Most typical American kids have lots of slightly (or never) used toys that another child might love. You can make up a box of excess art supplies for a crafty child, give an entire box of books to an avid reader or a collection of DVDs you rarely watch to a movie buff. The nice thing about giving stuff you already have is that you can usually give a little more – i.e. four used DVDs vs. one new one and it allows you to purge.
- DIY Less Expensive & Eco-Friendly Day Before Gift Baskets.
- Pick up a bunch of felt at a thrift store and make some cool homemade felt food for a child. Get some felt food inspiration.
- Give plant cuttings or saved seeds to a gardener.
- Make and give homemade reusable lunch kits – useful, inexpensive and green!
- Make a batch of homemade organic dough and make ornaments or magnets or any number of other creative things.
- Give homemade organic jam and organic bread or another yummy gift from the kitchen.
- Make and give pretty DIY recycled holiday luminaries.
- Host a dinner or lunch party, sans gifts. It’s better to hang out than give stuff.
Give back to others
You don’t have to give gifts to people in the family. If everyone agrees, you can all get together and make a huge impact by giving a gift (or time) to a volunteer organization. Such as…
Volunteer – Personally I’m not a fan of volunteering on holidays. Mainly because it feels false; like you’re only volunteering this day because it’s a holiday. I’d rather see, for example, people volunteering for Big Brothers & Sisters of American year round (I’ve volunteered with them in two different states, and it’s an excellent organization BTW, if you’re looking to get involved). However, you can volunteer on Christmas if you like – it’s still a nice way to give back.
Donate locally – If you donate goods or cash, I think you should donate locally whenever possible. Why? Everyone I know loves to send money overseas and you see people advocating for all sorts of charities for other countries, but we have major issues with child poverty, the environment, homeless youth and child abuse right here in the USA. Help your neighbors first, you know? Then we can better tackle other country’s issues. Plus, if you’d like to keep emissions low, it’s silly to send goods far away.In PDX, check out the following (if you’re not in PDX, see resources at the bottom of this section).
Give one, get one: If you really still need to give gifts, try the following. Last year my sister had everyone give her a pair of child’s shoes for her birthday. After the party she donated all the shoes to the local foster care system. I think this is an awesome idea that you could try for Christmas too, choosing the charity of your choice of course. You could also do a name drawing so that everyone in the family gets a gift, then have everyone bring one gift for their person and one gift for a charity of your choice, such as a toy drive.