Free Yourself from Christmas Consumerism

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

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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Resources

Christmas – 10 Green Gifts for You and Planet Earth

Green Christmas Gift Box with Red Ribon and Bow

Living lightly on Earth and keeping it habitable is the best gift we can give the people we love. Try these green Christmas gift ideas or come up with your own.

Christmas is a season for giving, connecting with people, and having fun. These are also important aspects of environmentalism so why not combine them into a green Christmas. A gift can be an actual thing or it can be an action.

Green gifts for you and planet Earth is not an idea restricted to people who celebrate Christmas. Feel free to insert you own holiday wherever the word Christmas appears. You probably already realized this, but just in case, green gifting is perfect for any season or occasion.

Bring Your Own Bottle

If you have not kicked the bottled water habit yet, take this opportunity to do so. Buy yourself and everyone on your Christmas list a reusable water bottle or water filtering pitcher.

Chill with a Child

Select a book with an environmental or nature theme and read it with your children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, or kids from the neighborhood. The great thing about books is that they are reusable and can be re-gifted indefinitely. If you are not into buying a book, checking out a book at the local library is free and a librarian can help you find just the right book for your kids.

Three of my many favorites are The Lorax, So You Want to Grow a Taco, and Strange Trees: And the Stories Behind Them.

Delightful Dinners

Surely, you know at least one coworker, friend, or family member who would be delighted to receive a home cooked meal she or he can pop in the oven or microwave or just eat after coming home from a hectic day of work, shopping, or volunteering. Give yourself extra credit for providing everything in reusable containers.

Happy Holidays

Say hi, hello, or happy holidays to people hurrying by you in the store parking lot, to the harried looking clerk at the checkout counter, or to the technical service rep just before he or she transfers you to another department instead of fixing your problem.

There is no downside to showing a little kindness.

Labor of Love

Consider giving the gift or your labor. Installing a low-flow showerhead, squirting caulking around drafty window frames, or spreading wood chips in the garden are all things that someone might appreciate you doing.

If you are mechanically inclined or tech savvy, friends or family members struggling to assemble a gift for someone else or trying to set up a social media account will appreciate you coming to the rescue.

Make Mondays Meatless

You may not realize it but eating meat has a substantial negative impact on the environment and of course on the animals that are raised and killed for their meat. Give yourself, your family, and the planet a gift by eating vegetarian meals on Mondays or any other day of the week you choose.

Second Time Around

The most earth-friendly gift you can give someone is something that is not new. Making any product entails using resources, energy, and creating waste. Using things as long as possible reduces the need for making new products or at least it would if we gave more things a second life.

Granted, a computer from 1998 is probably not a good item to give. A set of vintage mixing bowls, a gently worn flannel shirt, or a slightly used board game (with all the pieces) might be just the thing for your green gift recipient.

As appealing as it might be to use this as a time to get rid of your old stuff, think twice and be mindful of why you are giving what to whom.

Smile at Someone

There is nothing more disarming than a smile and smiling lifts your own mood too. Try it on your stressed out boss who is freaking out about year-end sales, or the airline check-in attendant who just told you only center seats are available for your 4-hour flight, or the harried restaurant server who forgot part of your order.

Warm Up

During the winter, it seems like no matter how high you crank the heat the house never warms up to where you can walk around in a t-shirt. So help your loved ones warm up with gifts like scarves, sweaters, fingerless mittens, shawls, and slippers. I am a fan of throws those small blankets that are around 50” x 70” that you can wrap around your shoulders, tuck over your lap, or even cover yourself up with to take a nap.

Extra credit if the warm up item was previously worn or used or if it is made from a sustainable material like wool.

Walk on the Wild Side

Give yourself a gift by taking a break from your crazy schedule to enjoy a walk in the wilderness. If you can visit a state or national park fantastic, however, a neighborhood park, schoolyard, or your own garden will work, too.

Observe and listen. Getting to know the other living beings in nature besides people is important as we are all on this planet together.

“Maybe Christmas, the Grinch thought, doesn’t come from a store.” —Dr. Seuss

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