It isn’t just the crowds and the fluorescent lighting and the endless racks and piles of goods. It’s the loudness of breathless materialism writ in bits: Buy One Get One 40% off! Stocking Stuffers! Buy More, Save More! Gifts Worth Giving!
Everywhere you look the signs scream, plead, and croon about how parting with your cash for this or that will MAKE your Christmas, just absolutely. The stores are practically doing you a favor! Huzzah! Jump on the buying train with your shiny shopping bags bumping heavily in your hands; let’s ride to Christmas-topia!
Let me just let that train go past. Okay. I am not anti-presents; I love them, giving and receiving. But, folks, the way we consume our planet’s resources is out of control. I’m not saying there isn’t a time to buy something new; underwear for instance is usually wise to purchase new (although just today I bought 10 pairs of boxers for my sons at the thrift store as they were quite immaculate). But to believe without qualification that the only decent thing to gift is a new product says a lot about our susceptibility to the Christmas-topia train’s siren call. A price tag does not a good present make. Given that, there are some good ways to buy new things; things that will last, things that support our local economy! Okay, looking both ways before crossing the tracks, here’s my ideas for great, responsible, wonderful gift-giving this year!
- Thrift and consignment shops! It is amazing to me what you can find for very affordable prices in these places, including sports equipment, lovely shoes and clothes, antiques, home decor, and on and on. Buy a whole outfit for each kid or assemble baskets along a theme; a real toolbox filled with tools, fishing gear, knitting supplies, mud pie making kit with pie tins and kitchen tools (alternately a play-doh tool set with rolling pin, cookie cutters, you get the idea), old time lady gift (antique purse with vintage hankies, a brooch, gloves, hat pin), a bundle of good records or books tied with a piece of jute, baby doll bundle (doll plus preemie outfits and accessories), or any antique items like vintage pyrex mixing bowls stuffed with homemade cookies!
- Make it! Give homemade candies, breads, cookies, knitted or crocheted goods, candles, soaps, lip balms in repurposed tins, herb vinegars, dried apples, homemade jerky, canned goods, dried herbs in decorative bottles, hot chocolate mixes, etc. Pinterest is your friend here. Look around your home, in your pantry, in your sewing materials. Irreparable jeans make AWESOME pot holders that will hold up for years. If you have woodworking tools, cutting boards, pastry boards, pizza peels, and cheese boards are all possibilities.
- If you buy new, buy useful! Don’t buy the play tool set; buy age-appropriate real tools for your kids and let them practice on a piece of scrap wood or stump. Don’t buy a “play tent”, buy a real one. Kids find the real stuff super fascinating; it doesn’t need to have a Disney character on it to make it “fun”. Give the kid with a love of cooking real kitchen ware that is of good quality; that will last them a lifetime, along with cookbooks that they can understand (and coupons for cooking lessons, one-on-one with you!)
- Buy from local artists, spas, and artisans! Investing your dollars in your local economy is a boon to your neighbors, and it keeps small businesses in business.
- Antique Shops! Not only are you reusing rather than consuming, but your gifts will be unique and clearly time-tested to last. Ideas: vintage postcards that you slip into an antique frame, a bundle of old children’s books, pitcher and cup sets, anything Pyrex, old linens, lovely candle holders with a bundle of your own homemade tapers, cast iron pans, copper pans, whimsical salt and pepper shakers, etc.
- Give experiences! Museum, aquarium, and gym memberships are great ways to bless a whole family for a year! Tickets to concerts, plays, operas, spa treatments, sporting events are also well received. Homemade coupons for “Dinner for Two” dates, “Mommy and Me” outings, etc.
Beyond these ideas, make a habit of “preventative shopping”. I learned this idea from the blog Miser Mom. The concept is to go garage sale and thrift store shopping throughout the year, picking up items that will be useful later (shoes and clothes in the next size up for your kids) and gifts for others. I have put this into practice and am no longer assaulted by the crisis of snow boot and pants and whatnot shortages quite as often. I also have a “gift box” of sorts of lovely items of good quality for birthdays and holidays. Spend a wee bit now to avoid spending a whole lot later. It works.
This is by no means an exhaustive list, so feel free to add to it in the comments section. Happy gifting!