Free Yourself from Christmas Consumerism

Make this the year you opt out of exchanging Christmas gifts.

Little Blue Car Overloaded with Christmas Gifts on Top

If Christmas shopping makes you feel stressed, anxious and exhausted, imagine how Earth feels about it. Maybe a change is in order.

I doubt I am the only American who believes that exchanging gifts at Christmas is a custom that has gotten way out of control. Luckily, you still have time to free yourself from Christmas consumerism this year.

Are you wondering why I am broaching the subject of consumerism during the holiday season when people are supposed to be feeling festive and generous? Well, for two reasons. The first is that the trappings of Christmas consumerism are surrounding you right now, which gives you the best possible vantage point for evaluating how you really feel about all of it. Secondly, if you curtail your Christmas shopping or better yet, skip it all together, you have the whole of December to celebrate Christmas in ways that are meaningful to you and to have some fun.

Does the United States Really Have a Christmas Consumerism Problem?

My definition of what constitutes a consumerism problem and yours are likely to be different. Since you are reading this post, it probably signifies that you have at least an inkling that there might be a Christmas consumerism problem.

Lined Up Shopping Carts for Christmas Shopping

I found 2017 Christmas shopping forecasts and trends dismaying. Here are a few examples.

  • Of the people who incurred credit card debt during the 2016 Christmas shopping season, 14% are still paying it off.
  • Consumers (I hate that word) in the United States are expected to spend a whopping $678.8 billion to $682 billion during the Christmas shopping season. This is a 3.6% to 4% increase from 2016.
  • 32 million people were planning to shop on Thanksgiving (I wonder how many did).
  • Retailers have increased their efforts to make it easy for you to tell your family and friends what you want for Christmas via online wish lists, social media, and in-store apps.
  • I could not find a statistic on how many Christmas gifts are not wanted, needed, or liked by the recipient. However, I did learn that two-thirds of holiday shoppers return at least one gift that they received, making the day after Christmas one of the biggest shopping days of the year.

Okay, you get the picture. Now, you might be thinking something along the lines of “What about family Christmas gift exchange traditions?”

Christmas Gift Exchange Traditions

The environmental zealot in me can easily say, “There is no Christmas tradition in the world that is worth jeopardizing our children’s chance to have a habitable planet to live on in future years.”

That said I realize that family traditions are important to many people including myself. Generally, a tradition is a way of passing down customs, values, and beliefs from one generation to the next. Traditions give people a sense of continuity, belonging, and ways of creating and sharing memorable moments.

Fortunately, family traditions are malleable and not set in stone. For instance, previous family traditions undergo modification and adaptation when two families merge into one. I posit that a Christmas gift exchange tradition can be retired without spoiling Christmas, but you are the judge for your own family.

My spouse and I gave up our Christmas gift exchange tradition in 2013. Four years later, we are looking forward to another delightful stress-free holiday season.

The Year We Opted Out of Exchanging Christmas Gifts

In 2013, with Thanksgiving approaching, I realized that my own internal Christmas shopping button had malfunctioned; somehow, it had been switched off, broken, or repurposed.

Green Buy Button on Computer Keyboard

My spouse and I talked it over and decided we wanted to stop exchanging Christmas gifts, period.

We let our family members and friends know that we had decided to stop exchanging gifts and why. To ensure there were no misunderstandings, we made it clear that we did not intend to give any Christmas gifts and did not wish to receive any.

When I wrote the post entitled Let’s Take Back Thanksgiving – Opt Out of Consumerism, we had just broken the news.

Most everyone accepted our decision with equanimity and I think a few with silent relief. If I remember correctly, my mother objected to the not receiving gifts part saying she enjoyed giving gifts. One of my friends pointed out that I could graciously accept a gift if someone wished to give me one without feeling obligated to reciprocate (good advice).

In the end, opting out of exchanging Christmas gifts was a non-event. Of course, you may have a different experience if you opt out of exchanging Christmas gifts, but chances are your family and friends will still love you.

Is This the Year You Opt Out of Exchanging Christmas Gifts?

If the idea of opting out of exchanging Christmas gifts is even remotely appealing or intriguing, reading the ten statements below may help you assess your own readiness to take the plunge.

Green Christmas Gift Box with Red Ribbon and Bow

  1. I dread Christmas shopping.
  2. I worry about the environmental consequences of Christmas consumerism.
  3. I am tired of going into to debt to buy Christmas gifts.
  4. I feel stressed out trying to come up with gift ideas for the people on my list.
  5. I cringe when a friend or co-worker asks me if I want to exchange Christmas gifts.
  6. I am concerned that my children are focusing too much on acquiring stuff.
  7. I cannot relax until I have bought, wrapped, and shipped all the gifts on my list.
  8. I feel disturbed by the amount of waste generated during the Christmas holiday season.
  9. I feel obligated to give a gift to everyone who gives me a gift.
  10. I wish someone in my family would suggest we stop exchanging gifts.

Do one or more of these statements ring true for you? If so, perhaps it is the season to rethink your own Christmas gift exchange traditions. Now is as good a time as any to just, stop.

Imagine what you could be doing if you were not searching for a parking space near the store, walking up and down the aisles in search of the perfect gift, standing in line at the checkout counter, surfing the web looking for the best deal, or waiting in line at the post office.

I can see you smiling and I hear Earth sighing with relief.

Merry Christmas!

Featured Image at Top: Little Blue Car Overloaded with Christmas Gifts on Top – Photo Credit iStock/Sergey Peterman

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Author: Linda Poppenheimer

Linda researches and writes about environmental topics to share information, spark conversation, and convince people to take action to keep earth habitable for all. She believes our individual actions do matter—it all adds up.

2 thoughts on “Free Yourself from Christmas Consumerism”

  1. This is the heart of the matter for me; “you have the whole of December to celebrate Christmas in ways that are meaningful to you and to have some fun.”

    Meaningful. That is an important word. Fighting crowds, spending precious time trapped in a mall parking lot, just to acquire gadgets and stuff for others as gestures of affection.

    For me it is more meaningful to try to spend that time with those people as much as possible playing games, talking, hiking, paddling, etc. being actually with those I care about. Realizing that it is often impossible to actually be with all those you love, maybe spend the time, energy, and money throughout the year as schedules permit to visit them instead of buying them a gift?

  2. Those are good points. I agree giving does not have to involve a tangible thing nor does it need to be relegated to just one month during the year.

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