I haven’t been a fan of the holidays for many years. The usual holiday shopping season, and even birthdays have always annoyed me. I believe we should always be trying to live in gratitude, not just make a big fuss about it for a few weeks a year. I like the spirit of it, but not the consumerist monstrosity it has become.
This is the time of year where everyone frantically tries to find the best deals on things, spends more money than they can afford, and tries to figure out what will pass as acceptable gifts for the people in their lives who they feel obligated to give to.
I am not a complete grinch. This will be my 40th holiday season. I haven’t made a wish list of “stuff” I wanted in a long time. I have always been pretty minimalistic with my possessions, mostly because I didn’t like moving it all, but I have decided on more militant minimalism the past few years. I’ll always have some gadgets like computers and cameras for both work and creating art, but I don’t need a closet full of unused toys like I had as a kid.
Despite this, there are a few people every year who will give me gifts. While I do always appreciate the sentiment, no matter how many times I protest ahead of time, there will be a small pile of items I likely won’t like, want, or need that I will then have to dispose of, donate, store, or otherwise care for. All because of the social conventions of gift-giving we have been programmed with by various companies since birth.
I don’t make it hard:
“What do you want for xmas?”
“Nothing. I have everything I need and then some. Spend your money on yourself or someone else.”
Still, I wind up with another regifted digital picture frame or a chia pet. When the same person gets you the same random and anonymous gift they got you the year before, is it really the spirit of giving?
Those who feel they absolutely must give gifts, should at least do some research. A box of smoked meats and cheeses? You know me well enough that you felt obligated to buy something for me, but didn’t know I was largely vegetarian. A bottle of wine? I don’t drink either, but at least I have no trouble giving this one away. A DVD for a movie you liked? Yes, I enjoy movies, but I just sold the existing DVD collection I never watched on eBay, which is where this will go.
This sounds like I really have no fun in life, but stuff does not make me happy. Your company makes me happy. Call me, send me some sort of message, but this singing fish will not be hung on my wall. Gag gifts can be fun. A friend received a gaudy piece of crystal for their wedding. It was passed around to at least 7 of us as we got married over the years. It’s a tradition.
Must Buy Things
Do some research if you feel you must give gifts. With more people leaving all that is consumerism and either traveling light or minimizing their possessions, it’s best to at least find out what someone would want.
Just Anything - If you have a group of people on your list that you just must get “something” for, you will likely be wrong. If you decide the person “likes golf, so I will get him this Tiger Woods bobblehead,” you’re just throwing money away. The thought should actually be what counts, not the ridiculous trinket. I’m not the only one who feels this way, but social convention dictates that most people pretend to appreciate the gift. They may appreciate the thought, but they’re tossing the ped-egg in the trash as soon as you leave.
Wish Lists - If you are going to buy something, there are many ways to actually get people something they at least want or need. Have them send you a few ideas or send you their Amazon Wish List. They have everything there from books to pretty much everything else sold at any other store. Even if you buy it elsewhere, you can at least know what they want.
Gift card – These are getting to be far more popular these days, and is probably the best bet aside from cash if you are stricken with holiday gift guilt. They are usually very good for the vendors, because they are often never redeemed. Usually because you didn’t bother doing your research. Amazon Gift Cards don’t expire, have no fees and can be selected by brand or for anything they sell. You can also just email a code to someone, print them out or have them mailed a card.
Charity - Donations are the ideal gift for me. We have a few different loans circulating through Kiva now, and they have a very high payback rate (98.99%) so you can keep re-lending. You can end up changing someone else’s life, and helping someone to start a business and provide for their family or village.
A friend gave a goat to a village in my name a couple of years ago. I don’t know if the goat got eaten or is used as a guard goat, but I know these villagers needed the help a lot more than I needed another clock radio.
Gratitude - Spend time with people. Make someone a card. Send them a note to tell them how much you appreciate them in your life. Slow down and don’t get caught up in the madness of the shopping season. The holidays should be about spending time with friends and family and appreciating your lives. Not about how many random people you can scratch off your list in a single trip to a mall.