Christmas is just seven weeks away! Isn’t that crazy!
This is the first year that we as a family are making a purposeful effort to simplify our holidays and change the way we have done some things in the past in order to be as frugal and green as we can. Follow along with me on our journey to have a Frugally Green Christmas. I will be posting on a new topic each Friday from now until Christmas. Each topic will also include my thoughts on simplifying in that area.
Here’s a look at the topics we’ll cover:
11/6 – Gift Giving
11/13 – Christmas Cards
11/20 – Wrapping Gifts & A GIVEAWAY!!!
11/27 – The Tree & Decorations
12/4 – Serving Others
12/11 – Food
12/18 – Focusing on the Reason for the Season
We’re starting this series with taking a look at our gift giving. Gifts are a central theme to what Christmas is all about. As Christians, we give gifts because of the gift that God gave to us in his son Jesus. And of course, gift giving is the main aspect of Christmas that popular culture and the media promote. How many times during the holiday season will you hear about whether sales are up or down for the year, what the hottest toy is, the best gift to give your spouse, or kids, or friend, or neighbor, or anyone else you can think of that needs a gift? And isn’t gift giving one of the things that brings on the most stress during Christmas?
I am convinced that there will be lots of “green” guides for gift giving this year, as “going green” is such a hot idea right now. I’m sure there will be many items that are promoted as green, healthy, good for the environment, etc., all in the name of trying to get you to buy the product. “Green” is a obviously a huge marketing term right now. But beware, just because something is marketed as green truly doesn’t mean it is the greenest and most frugal option out there.
I really want to strive to make Christmas not about the gifts this year. I am a little (or a lot) sickened by the amount of time, energy, resources and money that our culture (myself included) spends on gift giving during the holidays. I’m not saying that we’re not going to give any gifts, but I just want to try to avoid the consumerism and materialism that is so pervasive this time of year.
Here are my thoughts on giving frugally green Christmas gifts this year:
1. Buy used. Some people may scoff at the idea of giving or receiving a previously owned item as a gift, but really, what is more green, and almost always cheaper, than buying something used? Less waste of material, manufacturing, transportation, packaging, and the list could go on. Let your family know you’re okay with receiving used items and ask if they would be okay with receiving used gifts. Start keeping your eye out on Craigslist, Ebay, Amazon, and your local consignment and thrift stores for great used items that would make great gifts.
2. Set a limit. Both for your budget and for the number of gifts. I have recently read on a few different blogs the idea of giving children only three gifts because Jesus received three gifts from the Magi. I thought that was such an interesting and great idea and so counter cultural. I am beginning to believe that teaching children from a young age to not expect the overload that is often found under the tree on Christmas morning is not at all depriving them. It is teaching them to be content with less, and that is an important life lesson to learn. This applies to spouses too. For the past two years, Jer and I have given each other fewer gifts at Christmas and actually found that we were happier and appreciated the gifts we received much more than in previous years when we had gone “all out”.
And as for the budget, I don’t think there is a magic number for how much you should spend on gifts, but it is important to set limits. We don’t have a ton of extra money in our budget right now, so we have tossed around the idea of selling some of our stuff and only using that money to buy gifts. That will accomplish two things at once – providing money to buy gifts with, and clearing and cleaning out stuff that we no longer use or need to make space for new things that will be coming in. We’ll see how it goes for us this year as we’re getting kind of a late start on selling out stuff.
3. Give a gift to someone who actually needs it. Most of us do not lack for anything on a day to day basis. But there are millions of people around the world who do not have access to basic daily needs. Instead of getting a random gift for someone that they may never use, consider giving a gift in their name to someone in need. Some great organizations for this are Heifer International and Charity: Water. Donations start at just $10 or $20 dollars.
Can you simplify your gift list? Do you have to buy a present for every member of your extended family, all your friends, your kids’ teachers, and your neighbors?? Could you take some of those people off your list altogether, or give them a simpler gift, like food? Can you set up a gift exchange with your extended family so you could buy one gift instead of many? Or, *gasp* could you tell your extended family not to buy you any presents, and say that you won’t be buying them any either? Crazy – I know, but something that we have considered saying to our families this year. How can you simplify the number and amount of gifts that you are giving this year?
Here’s a good article on “greening” your gift giving at planetgreen.com.
I’d love to see you back next Friday for How to Have a Frugally Green Christmas when we’ll be talking about Christmas Cards!
What are some ways that you are trying to cut back or simplify your gift giving this Christmas? What do you think are great green and frugal gift ideas?
This post is linked to Frugal Fridays at Life as Mom.